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Vodafone Warriors to open 2011 NRL season at Eden Park

Vodafone Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah today announced the club will break new ground by opening its 2011 National Rugby League campaign against glamour Sydney side Parramatta at Eden Park in Auckland on the weekend of March 11-14. 

Scurrah said the first-ever NRL game at the country's biggest stadium,the main base for Rugby World Cup 2011, represented a landmark achievement for the NRL, the Vodafone Warriors and the new Auckland Super City.

Eden Park CEO David Kennedy is excited about the opportunity the Vodafone Warriors-Parramatta clash provides to continue to expand use of the newly redeveloped stadium beyond its rugby and cricket roots.

"We are confident that Eden Park can provide an enjoyable environment for the Vodafone Warriors' fans as we look forward to welcoming the Warriors for the first time," he said.

"We hope it is just the beginning of an ongoing relationship with the NRL."

The Vodafone Warriors’ 2010 NYC premiership-winning side will take on the Eels in the curtain-raiser while the Ivan Cleary-coached Vodafone Warriors, NRL finalists this year, will meet an Eels side now coached by Stephen Kearney. Kearney has just guided the Kiwis to Four Nations glory against the Kangaroos after also leading them to victory in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup final.

We’re absolutely thrilled to have the chance to take our NRL and NYC sides to a big stadium like Eden Park with a capacity for a crowd of 50,000,” said Scurrah.

With all the work that has gone into it for Rugby World Cup 2011, Eden Park is now clearly New Zealand’s premier venue.

We've been working hard with all parties concerned to confirm what will be a huge day for the Vodafone Warriors, the NRL and the region and, over the next few weeks, we will be announcing some very exciting initiatives about the game.

Rugby league in New Zealand is enjoying exceptional success right now. The Vodafone Warriors have come off one of the most successful seasons in the club's history, winning the NYC premiership, making the NRL finals and winning the NRL’s overall Club Championship for the first time. As well as that, we’ve just seen the Kiwis win the Four Nations after also taking the World Cup off Australia two years ago and also drawing a crowd of almost 45,000 at Eden Park recently.”

It will be the first time since entering the Australian competition that the club has played an official home game away from its base at Mount Smart Stadium. Since 1995, the Vodafone Warriors have played a total of 189 regular season games and three finals matches at Mount Smart Stadium (or Ericsson Stadium as it was previously known).

While we are not playing this round at Mount Smart Stadium, our valued Vodafone Warriors corporate and public members will be guaranteed facilities and seats at Eden Park of at least similar quality to the ones they have at Mount Smart and their attendance for the Eden Park match is included in their membership fees" said Scurrah.

Our remaining 11 home games in the regular season will all be at Mount Smart but this venture is exciting for everyone involved with the club. Many of us were at Eden Park for the Kiwis’ match against the Kangaroos and were very impressed with the facilities.

We remain very committed to retaining Mt Smart Stadium as our home venue but see the Eden Park season opener as a fantastic way to give our members a unique and historic experience; and to also attract new fans to Vodafone Warriors matches.

We need increased attendances at our home matches and I hope fans not only support the Eden Park game but others that follow at Mount Smart Stadium, where one of the most exciting draws ever awaits. This starts with the match against NRL 2010 premiers St George Illawarra in round three followed by the match against beaten grand finalists the Sydney Roosters in round five.”

NRL CEO David Gallop also strongly supports the initiative to take the Vodafone Warriors’ NRL and NYC matches to Eden Park.

The Warriors are to be congratulated for looking for opportunities to both increase overall attendances and to give their members access to the best possible facilities,” he said.

The presence of more than 44,000 fans at the Four Nations doubleheader showed that Eden Park is a world-class sporting venue and the Warriors taking their opening game of the 2011 season there can only enhance the club’s profile and make people more aware of the opportunities the stadium presents.

We will work closely with the Warriors and the City of Auckland to help make it a spectacular start to the 2011 season.”

Vodafone Warriors coach Ivan Cleary said he relished the chance to start the 2011 campaign at Eden Park.

The boys love playing at Mount Smart Stadium but it is always exciting playing in front of a big crowd at a venue as big as Eden Park. It’s a really impressive stadium, up with the best and with tremendous facilities for the players,” he said.

It was a real cauldron for the Four Nations match the other day and, with support from our members and all sports fans in Auckland and elsewhere in the country, there should be a great atmosphere again when we play there against the Eels. We’re looking forward to it.”

The match-up with the Eels will bring together many of the NRL’s biggest stars as well as giving new coach Kearney his debut in charge of an NRL side. His squad includes Jarryd Hayne, Timana Tahu, Nathan Hindmarsh, Fuifui Moimoi and Luke Burt while those in contention to play for the Vodafone Warriors will include former Eels players Feleti Mateo and Krisnan Inu, fellow new signing Steve Rapira and the club’s five members of the Kiwis’ Four Nations title-winning squad Manu Vatuvei, Lance Hohaia, Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino and Lewis Brown.