NRL grand final could go to New Zealand
Photo Source: AAP
The NRL grand final could be played overseas for the first time, when construction begins on a remodelled ANZ Stadium.
NRL boss Todd Greenberg revealed New Zealand has emerged as a genuine option of hosting rugby league's showpiece event in coming years.
ANZ Stadium has been the home of the grand final since 1999 and rugby league's grand final has never been played outside of Sydney.
But that is likely to change when the Homebush Bay venue is transformed into a rectangular stadium as part of the NSW government's $1 billion investment in stadia strategy.
Exactly when that will happen will be determined after the redevelopment of Pirtek Stadium in Parramatta, which begins next year.
But when it does the biggest game of the year could be headed across the ditch.
"The game is not keen to play its showpiece grand final inside a construction zone so if we have to move games then we will look at it," Greenberg told AAP.
"We will only do that in partnership and consultation with the NSW government who are spending a significant amount of money in this city to redevelop our stadiums.
"But if we do decide to play elsewhere then we will clearly look at New Zealand.
"And we have no shortage of options and no shortage of interest from people who would love to see the grand final in their place."
Auckland's iconic Eden Park hosts the NRL Nines and it would be an ideal venue to host the grand final, if it was moved to New Zealand.
The possibility of the Warriors playing in a grand final at Eden Park would give rugby league a considerable boost in its battle for hearts and minds in rugby union-mad New Zealand.
"Certainly that's what New Zealand people would say and that is what Warriors fans would say," Greenberg said.
"But that is also what Storm fans in Melbourne or Broncos fans in Brisbane would say, or rugby league fans in Perth or Adelaide would say."
Former NRL CEO Dave Smith described Queensland as the heartland of rugby league and Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium is another contender to host the grand final if it is moved from Sydney.
The NRL continues to make a commitment to Perth, with premiership games being held there regularly and the Kangaroos playing the Kiwis there in the end-of-season Test this year. As such the new 65,000 seat Perth Stadium is another contender to host the grand final.
As is the MCG, which hosted a sold-out State of Origin game last year. Adelaide Oval is another.
But moving the biggest game of the year to New Zealand has the potential to grow rugby league the greatest.
"There would be two primary reasons (to move the grand final)," Greenberg said
"One would be the commercial reasons. But more than that it is about the footprint and the legacy you leave in those places for participation in the game and people's ability to engage with the sport."