Could NZ host NRL grand final?

The NRL grand final to be staged in Auckland?

For now, it remains a distant dream, a longshot.

But the legendary Australian league columnist Roy Masters has reported New Zealand is among the bidders to stage the code's biggest club game, which could be shifted out of Sydney because of a political row.

"Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and New Zealand are willing to pay the NRL to move the big games away from Sydney because their economic impact justifies the outlay," wrote Masters — a former first grade coach who now lives in Melbourne — in the Sydney Morning Herald.

"[The NRL] has already fielded bids from Queensland, Victoria and New Zealand to take the game to their capitals or country. Their initial offers are around $10m to shift the grand final away from Sydney for the first time."

Finding evidence of a firm New Zealand bid has turned up very little but league is never shy when it comes to dramatic moves.

The NRL will contemplate the shift if the opposition Labour party wins the state election next year and freezes the Sydney Football Stadium re-build.

Next year's grand final will be played at the Olympic Stadium at Homebush but the NRL can go where it wishes after that.

Moving the game out of Australia would be a longshot, but Eden Park — the only current New Zealand stadium big enough for such a match — would sell out for such an occasion.

Sources believed that promoters of a new Auckland stadium, the sunken treasure which many believe is a pie-in-the-sky prospect, would definitely bid for the big Australian league fixtures.

The NRL told the New Zealand Herald from Sydney there had been no formal bids yet. But it did not respond when asked if there had been informal contact.

"Our preference is still that the NSW Government honour our agreement to build the stadia and then we will keep the grand final here for 25 years," spokesman Peter Grimshaw said.

"But if that deal does not proceed we will look at taking it elsewhere. [We are] unlikely to seek bids until we see who wins the NSW election in March."

New Labour leader Michael Daley promised to fight "wasteful" stadium spending.

ATEED, the Auckland Council's promotional arm, left the door open to helping any bid with head of major events Steve Turner saying: "We have always remained open-minded about further rugby league events in Auckland, and we have a positive ongoing relationship with the NRL.

"Hosting an NRL Grand final would attract strong visitation from our number one key visitor market, however we are not in discussions about this event at present."

Eden Park hosted New Zealand's biggest league match, the 1988 sellout World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia. It has been a Kiwis and Warriors venue, despite its limitations. The famous stadium has been abandoned as a Warriors venue but might be in the frame when the Kiwis play Mate Ma'a Tonga in June.

The ground's chief executive Nick Sautner said there were regular meetings with the NRL and they had "expressed interest in hosting any NRL events including Grand Final and State of Origin fixtures".

But when asked about the bid price, he said: "We are not best placed to answer this as fixtures like those require substantial funding from a series of agencies such as Council, Government and ATEED."

ATEED backed the short-lived NRL Auckland Nines over four rocky years.

- Chris Rattue

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