New Zealand back on NRL's agenda

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo wants to see more matches played in league-starved New Zealand.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo wants to see more matches played in league-starved New Zealand.

The NRL will encourage clubs to take home games to New Zealand next year as rugby league prepares to return to the country for a one-off match in August.

The Warriors confirmed last week they will take their clash with the Bulldogs back to Auckland in two months' time, ending what would have been a 716-day wait.

But they will otherwise remain in Australia for the rest of the regular season, with Sunday's match against Melbourne promoted as a Kiwi Coast party.

There had been some suggestion the Warriors could play a whole year at home next year as a way to thank them for spending two seasons on the road.

But that now appears almost impossible, with the NRL keen to help out any team who wants to take home matches across to the league-starved country.

"Thinking about how we might be able to take more NRL games to New Zealand is always a consideration," NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.

"It's a consideration from the point of view with New Zealand being a growth market.

"Outside rewarding fans who haven't seen a lot of NRL for now almost 18 months, it's also an opportunity to play games in different markets and parts of New Zealand.

"It's on the cards but nothing is finalised."

Several Australian clubs have previously taken home games across the Tasman in recent years, but Manly were the only side still doing so in 2019.

Asked if the NRL would encourage clubs to return there, Abdo said it was one of several options.

"Yes, we'll play our role in helping to facilitate that.

"We're looking at a range of different things - double headers, playing games in other parts of New Zealand.

"That remains a work in progress."

Abdo also remains hopeful if the Warriors earn a home final this year, they could take that match back to Auckland.

Beyond that, he is eying off bigger events for the country in coming years, including more Tests against the Kangaroos who have played there just once since 2015

Magic Round is up for grabs after 2022, while the venue for the next neutral State of Origin encounter is yet to be locked in for 2025.

"New Zealand as a destination is always on the cards for our major events," Abdo said.

"Prior to COVID it was already in our thinking about how we could take more rugby league content to New Zealand.

"A good example of that would be thinking about how we play Test matches more regularly in New Zealand too, developing a home-and-away concept with our trans-Tasman Test matches."

Australian Associated Press