Rugby League’s premier competition is set to return to Christchurch with the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles taking a home match to AMI Stadium for at least the next two years.
The Sea Eagles have committed to bringing their home game to Christchurch in the 2018 and 2019 seasons with an option for 2020 additionally.
With their strong Christchurch and New Zealand connections, the Sea Eagles are confident they will replicate the sell-out crowd the Penrith Panthers attracted against the New Zealand Warriors in 2016.
Current Sea Eagles player Lewis Brown is a former Riccarton Knights junior, while former Kiwis and Canterbury legend Quentin Pongia is in charge of Player Welfare.
Current New Zealand International Martin Taupau and 2018 signing from the Warriors, Toff Sipley, will also be prominent in this fixture in years to come.
With such a strong Kiwi flavour in the club, Sea Eagles Chief Operating Officer Neil Bare said the club was looking forward to further engaging with their strong Kiwi supporter base and establishing an elite pathway presence for players in the wider Canterbury region.
“We are excited at the opportunity to closely engage with our strong support base in Canterbury, which has a long rugby league tradition and has always supported NRL games that have come to the region,” said Bare while visiting Christchurch today with local NZ International Lewis Brown.
The last NRL match at AMI stadium between the Panthers and Warriors in 2016 was sold out well before match day and Bare expects similar, if not stronger interest in his club’s visit to the South Island.
Bare and Brown were in in Christchurch today to check out the playing venue, meet match promotor Justin Wallace and city officials.
Brown said he was chomping at the bit to take his Sea Eagles team to Christchurch and play in front of his own family and friends.
“AMI Stadium is on the same site of the old Rugby League Park where it all began for me with Riccarton and the Canterbury teams, so it will be very special to come here and play” said Brown.
Wallace was pleased to again offer local fans more world-class rugby league following on from his highly successful Panthers event in 2016.
“The NRL was keen to continue with matches in Christchurch and we had three or four clubs that were keen to come to the city, but the Sea Eagles proved to be the most committed,” said Wallace, who added that his ex-Canterbury team-mate Quentin Pongia’s presence at the club had played a key role to start the discussions.
Wallace said that the NRL still had to rubberstamp the Christchurch fixture and confirm a date in the 2018 draw, which is expected to be released in late October.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, who met with the Sea Eagles on Monday, would welcome another NRL match heading to the city.
“These matches are great events for the people of the city, but also underline that Christchurch is a wonderful venue to host major events. As we witnessed with the most recent NRL match last year, the city will always get behind big events to make them successful,” said Mayor Dalziel.
Sea Eagles COO Neil Bare said that his club will have an extensive programme of community engagement opportunities when they visit the city.
“We are putting into place a thorough community engagement strategy to visit schools, rugby league clubs in the area and hold coaching clinics to connect further with the Christchurch community, give them an up-close feel for the NRL Club, and strengthen their ties to the Sea Eagles.”