Only 24 hours after we discussed the sell-out match at Leichhardt Oval, across the ditch the Kiwi’s have come in their thousands to snap up tickets to the Warriors final home game of the season – selling out Mt Smart Stadium for the first time since the Warriors entered the premiership in 1995.
The rise of the NZ Warriors in 2007 has again woke the sleeping giant that is New Zealand Rugby League. After achieving good results earlier this decade when the Warriors reached the Grand Final things went downhill just as quickly, last year the Warriors were burdened with the second lowest crowd attendance figures in the NRL.
After tossing and turning, changing coaches and management over several years – things certainly look to be back on track for the Auckland based club. It’s obvious the potential lying within New Zealand – while it may be a staunch Rugby Union stomping ground, if the Warriors could break through for their maiden premiership the response would no doubt be enormous. Additional Kiwi supporters, merchandise, additional international NRL exposure and the possibility of more NRL clubs in other parts of New Zealand are not out of the question in the long term future.
While the National Rugby League (NRL) might not be played in every state of Australia, they do hold a draw card that is the envy of rival codes such as the AFL; purely because they have successfully expanded into New Zealand. The international potential is certainly there for the NRL, the Warriors will ignite the fuse should they take out the title – bringing lucrative rewards for the Kiwi Club and the NRL.
The Warriors have this year seemingly overcome their biggest weakness, ‘winning away from home’ – proving on several occasions in 2007 they can topple big teams outside of New Zealand. In most other departments the NZ Warriors are looking extremely good, their squad is talented, balanced, well coached and without any injury concerns.
With a win over the undermanned Manly Sea Eagles, it puts the Warriors in prime position for a home final. With that kind of launch pad and the possibility of a 3rd week home final if results fall their way – the Kiwi clan will never get a better tilt at the coveted prize; that is the NRL Rugby League Premiership.