Christchurch rugby league fans will enjoy late summer temperatures when the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles take on the Vodafone Warriors at Christchurch Stadium next season.

The National Rugby League today released the draw for the 2019 season and allocated the Sea Eagles home fixture against the Warriors in Christchurch to March 30, with a 5pm kick-off.

Walco Events Director Justin Wallace said he could not have wished for a better date than a fixture in round three of the NRL.  “We hoped to avoid the colder mid-winter months, so getting the March 30 date confirmed is just fantastic,” said Wallace.

A near-capacity crowd packed into Christchurch stadium on June 9 this year to watch the New Zealand Warriors beat Manly 34-14 despite the temperatures dipping into single figures as the night progressed.

“Our rugby league fans are clearly hardy folks and created a fantastic carnival atmosphere at the last match. And with a warmer night we have several new initiatives to turn it into an even bigger rugby league carnival,” said Wallace.

Wallace hoped the early-season excitement would help to draw the crowds to Christchurch Stadium.  “We have had great crowds in Christchurch, but in round three all teams still have genuine hopes and ambitions to make the finals, which adds another edge to the match.”

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles CEO Lyall Gorman said the club was delighted to be returning to Christchurch. “The support we received throughout Christchurch last season was exceptional at all levels,’’ said Gorman.

“Although we didn’t get the result we wanted in terms of the game, we were made to feel very welcome by the community, in particular with the official greeting by Ngāi Tahu and the Christchurch City Council.

“I know our players and coaching staff certainly enjoyed the chance to promote rugby league and the Sea Eagles brand through the schools, the training clinic, and the functions we attended in the build-up to the match.

“We value our partnership with Walco and look forward to building on it in years to come,” said Gorman, whose club has an option for a third home match in Christchurch in 2020.

Christchurch City Councillor Tim Scandrett said that it was great news that the Sea Eagles are returning to Christchurch. “A lot of people travelled from out of town to attend, so hosting rugby league fixtures is beneficial for the city economically, and it also raises the city’s profile.”

Christchurch Airport Chief Aeronautical and Commercial Officer Justin Watson said the airport was proud to support events which bring people to the city.

 “The airport and the city look forward to putting on as much a show as the players, with the third-round game giving both teams a tilt at the title,” said Watson.

Canterbury Rugby League chief executive Duane Fyfe said the local community was delighted to see Manly and the Warriors return to Christchurch

“The early-season scheduling provides a prime opportunity to promote rugby league to the wider community to attract more players and volunteers to the rugby league Clubs in Canterbury.”

Early-bird tickets will go sale soon through Ticketek, with the cheapest tickets available for the fans who book their tickets early.

Photo: Manly Sea Eagles Kiwis star Martin Taupau on the charge against the Vodafone Warriors in their fixture on June 9.

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