Benji Marshall is proud of the Wests Tigers for taking one of their home games to New Zealand next year, labelling it as the “right thing to do” after the sacrifices the Warriors made during the Covid pandemic.
The hosting of the Women’s FIFA World Cup on Australian soil presented the Tigers with plenty of logistical issues for 2023, with the tournament putting a halt to the club’s plans of developing a suburban ground strategy built around greater use of both Leichhardt Oval and Campbelltown.
These two stadiums will be unavailable from July through to August next year, after being utilised for the World Cup as either stadium options or training bases.
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This immediately put the club’s idea of vacating from CommBank Stadium on the backburner and led to them instead signing another short-term lease, while taking a number of their games on the road.
“That is because of the interruption caused by the World Cup, otherwise it would not have been the case,” chairman Lee Hagipantelis told the AAP.
“We have said we want to return to our historical roots at Campbelltown and Leichhardt.”
The Tigers eventually settled on moving their ‘home’ match in round 24 across the ditch to Hamilton, in a decision new assistant coach Marshall has praised.
“I’m really proud of the club not just because I’m from New Zealand but because I think it’s the right thing to do,” Marshall said on the latest edition of Ask the Boss.
“I’ve talked a lot about being good people and having good values and one of those values for us is that we are giving back to the Warriors and the fans in New Zealand.”
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Before the decision was announced, the club’s CEO Justin Pascoe also spoke of the importance of building an improved identity for the Tigers. He linked their decision around their future stadium plans – which has also seen them commit to playing a game in Tamworth – as an example of this.
“We will continue to push the DNA and identity of Wests Tigers in every important decision we make, and clearly our stadium strategy is hugely important,” Pascoe said at the time.
The unavailability of their local grounds has allowed the club to be innovative in their approach for the upcoming season and Marshall was adamant the correct decision had been reached to reflect the values of the Tigers.
“I know sometimes from a business perspective people will say, ‘Why don’t you just play the game at home?’ But it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“I genuinely believe that, so for me I’m all for it.”
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Warriors’ CEO Cameron George was one of a number of figures who heralded the commitment.
“We’re delighted Wests Tigers are bringing their home game against us to New Zealand,” George said.
“I think it’s a terrific gesture and I’m sure all league fans in this country will get right behind the event.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton’s Mayor, Paula Southgate, claimed the show of gratitude was greatly appreciated and would provide some much-needed entertainment to the region.
“New Zealand fans missed out on many opportunities to attend live NRL games during the pandemic, so it’s fantastic that the Wests Tigers are bringing this extra match to our city and making FMG Stadium Waikato, their home ground,” she said.
“We have such a passionate league community here in the Waikato and I know local fans will put their support right behind this event.”