BULLS AND WARRIORS SET FOR NGĀ PUNA WAI OPENER DESPITE WEATHER SETBACKS
February 23 shapes as one of the most momentous days in Canterbury Rugby League’s modern history – the code’s first game at its new home, Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub.
The Rockcote Canterbury Bulls square off against the Warriors InTrust Super Premiership team at 1.30pm on Saturday – preceded by a women’s trial game requested by the Warriors’ NRLW coaching staff – in a significant coup befitting of such an occasion.
But as the saying goes, best-laid plans often go awry and the weather’s refusal to play ball in late-2018 has meant the historic encounters will be played on the adjacent community field at Ngā Puna Wai, rather than the designated rugby league fields.
An incredibly wet November in Canterbury prevented grass seed being sown on the two rugby league sand stripped fields before Christmas as planned. Twice as much forecasted rain was recorded by November 24 and more followed – despite a long-range forecast for a pre-Christmas drought, as the region experienced in 2017.
A pre-Christmas deadline for having the grass sown was required for the Bulls-Warriors Ngā Puna opener on February 23.
“There is little anyone can do about the weather, but it was still frustrating seeing the three-week buffer for grass seed sowing being whittled away by continual rain last November, especially after the experts forecasted a drought for that time of year,” Canterbury Rugby League CEO Duane Fyfe says.
“On the other side of the coin, we still get to host the Warriors at Ngā Puna Wai and our Bulls players are very keen to face them after putting some serious training in over the off-season.”
February 23-24 was the only the weekend available to the Warriors ISP team to travel to the South Island. But after consultation with the Rockcote Canterbury Bulls staff and players, the consensus was the local side were enthusiastic about matching up against the Warriors regardless of which field the match was to be played on.
Rugby League Field 1 was eventually sown on February 3, with a 12-14 grow-in period, and has a good grass strike. The last of the rugby league light towers are planned to be lifted into position from February 25, with final commissioning planned before the end of the month.
The belated first games played on Ngā Puna Wai’s designated rugby league fields – with an announcement expected in coming weeks – will be another landmark event in a huge 2019 season for the game in Canterbury.
A bumper crowd is anticipated for the Ngā Puna Wai double-header on Saturday – don’t miss the chance to be a part of Canterbury Rugby League history!
Tickets for the 23 February clash at Ngā Puna Wai are $10, with children under five admitted free.