The Vodafone Warriors, the only New Zealand-based team in Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL), will return to Mount Smart Stadium in 2022, almost three years after their last game in Auckland.
COVID-19 travel restrictions between Australia and New Zealand forced the Warriors to play their ‘home’ games during the 2020 and 2021 seasons at Central Coast Stadium in New South Wales.
The fixture list for the 2022 NRL season has been released today (Tuesday) and provisionally includes five home games for the Warriors at Mount Smart Stadium. The June 18 game against the South Sydney Rabbitohs has been earmarked as the first Mount Smart Stadium fixture for the Warriors, which last played at the venue on August 30, 2019.
The Warriors are due to play further games against the Melbourne Storm, Wests Tigers, Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs and Gold Coast Titans at Mount Smart Stadium.
The Warriors will also play five home games at Redcliffe’s Moreton Daily Stadium, which will serve as the club’s base for 2022. The team will also play one home game at Sunshine Coast Stadium and Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, with the latter to form part of the league’s Magic Round.
The Warriors’ season will begin at Sunshine Coast Stadium with a ‘home game’ against the St George Illawarra Dragons on March 12. Current border restrictions between New Zealand and Australia would prevent the Warriors from playing in Auckland, but it is hoped that these will be eased by next June.
From next year, Mount Smart Stadium will also serve as the home of Moana Pasifika, a new Super Rugby franchise that will make its debut in the competition in 2022.
The deal with Auckland Limited, the region’s economic and cultural agency, will run from 2022 to 2028 and provides Moana Pasifika with a training ground base as well as a home stadium.
Moana Pasifika patron, Tuifa’asisina Sir Bryan Williams, said that while New Zealand will be the team’s base for the foreseeable future, its long-term aim is to establish roots in the Pacific islands. Super Rugby already has one Auckland-based team, the Blues, which play at Eden Park.