League: Stadium touted as Anzac test venue

The Forsyth Barr Stadium is being touted as a venue for rugby league tests. Photo Peter McIntosh
The Forsyth Barr Stadium is being touted as a venue for rugby league tests. Photo Peter McIntosh
International rugby league, showcasing some of the superstars of the game, could be in the frame for next year's Dunedin sporting calendar, because of doubts about the availability of AMI Stadium in Christchurch.

Those doubts were confirmed yesterday afternoon, after engineers recommended to the Christchurch City Council the Hadlee stand at AMI Stadium be demolished, and a Christchurch city councillor said the stadium would not be available for the 2012 season.

New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Jim Doyle yesterday said discussions with Dunedin Venues Management Ltd were ‘‘very, very preliminary'', but the stadium was one being considered for next year's Anzac test between the Kiwis and the Kangaroos.

Both Forsyth Barr Stadium management and league southern zone general manager Steve Martin were yesterday very keen to attract the match.

DVML chief executive David Davies said: ‘‘We absolutely want to bring it here. It's an iconic event.''

The annual league clash between New Zealand and Australia was moved from Christchurch to the Gold Coast in May, after the AMI Stadium sustained serious damage in the February 22 earthquake.

The NZRL said at the time both it and the Australian Rugby League were committed to returning the Anzac test to Christchurch next year, but Doyle said yesterday other New Zealand stadiums were now being considered.

Doyle emphasised the NZRL was also still talking to AMI Stadium administrators, but from the NZRL's point of view, keeping the game in the South Island, so Christchurch people could still attend, would be a positive option.

He said Martin was also ‘‘pretty keen'' on the option.

Martin said yesterday he would ‘‘absolutely'' advocate the idea of the game being held at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.

‘‘I can probably say I've been aware of the fact there's been discussions between the NZRL and DVML.

‘‘It would be very exciting for the league and the sporting community if the Anzac test could be played at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.''

From his time as coach of the Otago rugby team, he was aware plenty of rugby fans from Christchurch travelled to Dunedin for test matches at Carisbrook, and he expected the same would happen for rugby league.

There had been growth of the game in the South, and the discussions showed that was recognised by the national body.

Davies said while he could not discuss business negotiations, ‘‘every effort is being made to bring the game to Dunedin''.

He expected to find out ‘‘sooner rather than later'' whether the event would be booked, as the NZRL would not want the matter left unresolved for long.

Doyle said he expected a decision to be made ‘‘in a couple of weeks'', though he was not in a rush.

NZPA reported yesterday the Crusaders rugby team would need a new home for the 2012 season, after the news about AMI Stadium.

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said the side would not be using Forsyth Barr Stadium as a base next year.

Players had travelled to every game this season and fully intended to play in Christchurch next year, though exactly where has not been confirmed.
Further evaluations still needed to be carried out at the stadium, the town hall and the convention centre, Christchurch councillor Sue Wells said.

The Christchurch City Council was still working with the Canterbury Rugby Football Union on finding an alternative home for rugby in the city.

‘‘At this stage we can confirm that the stadium will not be available for the 2012 season and we will continue working with everyone involved,'' Wells said.


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