Rugby league will storm a rival code’s spiritual home this November with a triple treat of international matches at Eden Park when the All Blacks are away seeking more Rugby World Cup glory.
A trio of tests on 2 November between the Kiwis and Great Britain Lions, the Australian Kangaroos and Tonga, and proud Pacific nations Fiji and Samoa take place on the same day as rugby’s world cup final.
The Eden Park matches are part of a thrilling year for league fans, with Mt Smart Stadium to likely to become a temporary Tongan kingdom in June with a long-awaited re-match between the Kiwis and Mate Ma’a Tonga.
The Tonga v Kiwis men’s test is part of a historic double header on 22 June also involving the Kiwi Ferns against a Pacific opponent.
The five-match international smorgasbord was announced today at Eden Park by the Rugby League International Federation, New Zealand Rugby League, and England Rugby Football League – and brought to Auckland with the help of investment by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) on behalf of Auckland Council, and as part of the region’s annual major events portfolio, along with support from central government.
Mayor Phil Goff says Auckland is the perfect city for a league showdown of epic proportions.
“Rugby League has a passionate following in Auckland, and it’s great to see some of the world’s best teams coming to our shores in 2019. It follows a fantastic summer of sport, with the ASB Classic, FIH Hockey Pro League and world-class international cricket showcasing Auckland to the world.”
Stuart Turner, Head of Major Events at ATEED, says the huge year of league tests are expected to deliver more than $1.2 million in new GDP and more than 18,000 visitor nights, as well as being broadcast to millions worldwide.
“Tonga’s fans are famed for their passion, and for turning stadiums into a sea of red and song. Kiwi and Kangaroo fans now have a chance to show their true colours in what will be earth-shaking league encounters,” says Stuart Turner.
The Kiwis v Tonga, Kangaroos v Tonga, and Fiji v Samoa matches form part of the new six-nation Oceania Cup, while the Great Britain Lions test is part of that team’s two test series in New Zealand – the famed combined British side’s first tour here for 13 years.
Stuart Turner says the matches in June and November will bring visitors to the region in traditionally quieter times of the year for the visitor economy, which is a key ATEED priority under the Destination AKL 2025 strategy released last year.
“We are working closely with Auckland’s tourism industry on concepts which will focus future visitor growth in periods outside of the traditional peak summer season, and the multi-match weekends are great news for accommodation providers looking to fill rooms at quiet times.”
Last October, two international rugby league tests in Auckland across consecutive weekends – Tonga v Kangaroos, and Kiwis v Kangaroos – combined to deliver $1.16m in regional GDP and more than 15,000 new visitor nights.
ATEED will be involved in detailed planning for the two busy sporting weekends with event delivery partners, Duco Events, and agencies including Auckland Transport, Auckland Airport, venue staff and New Zealand Police.
Photo: George Burgess GBRLLions, Roger Tuivasa-sheck (Kiwis) and Leivaha Pulu (Mate Ma'a Tonga) at Eden Park