Crusaders likely to bypass Nelson for S15 game
Story by: WAYNE MARTIN - Nelson Mail - Photo by: Chris Symes
The Tasman Rugby Union will support the Crusaders' expected decision to bypass Nelson and send their Super match against the Chiefs on March 9 to Napier.
With Addington's Rugby League Park unavailable until the fifth-round Super match against the Cheetahs on March 24, the Crusaders board is tipped to select Napier's McLean Park over Nelson's Trafalgar Park in an effort to prop up its balance sheet after last year's financial disaster when the union posted a loss of almost $700,000.
The Tasman Union's commercial and marketing manager, Les Edwards, said the union understood the Crusaders' thinking behind their likely preference for taking the match to Napier. He said the possible inclusion of former Hawke's Bay players Israel Dagg and Zac Guildford in the Crusaders lineup would be a major drawcard, along with Napier's ability to generate more revenue.
"Whatever the Crusaders decide to do, we're all for it," said Edwards.
"Obviously, they have revenue concerns and they need to maximise the gate for these home games, that are in fact now away games.
"Our position would be that if there were further delays at Addington Park, Nelson would probably come back into the mix and we would be more than happy to host them.
"We want what's right for the Crusaders."
Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio also accepted the reasoning behind the likely decision.
"I understand that it's a choice between Nelson and Napier and Napier are definitely looking like they're the frontrunner," Miccio said.
"The Crusaders have to ensure their financial viability number one, and I guess having the larger stadium in Napier makes it a far more attractive proposition and delivers a far higher return.
"So I wouldn't be surprised that we've missed it on those grounds.
"It was looking likely that it was going to be us before Christmas but I guess the board has decided that the No1 priority is to ensuretheir financial viability, so I can fully understand and appreciate that. And if they're financially viable, that means that in future years, we'll be able to get games in Nelson [again]."
Timaru's Alpine Energy Stadium was another option to host the fixture but it is understood the smaller ground was not seriously considered.
Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said an announcement would not be made until later this week, but it is understood the Chiefs game will be in Hawke's Bay unless the Hurricanes board, which hasthe province within its franchise catchment, votes against it.
The New Zealand Rugby Union also had to approve the match.
With AMI Stadium damaged in the earthquakes, the Crusaders played two regular-season matches and a playoff game in Nelson last year. Crowds in the 12,000-capacity ground at Trafalgar Park averaged about 10,000 compared with 14,000 fans that attended a Crusaders match against the Chiefs at McLean Park.
The Crusaders marketing staff will also bank on coach Todd Blackadder's opportunity to select Dagg and Guildford. There is also a Hawke's Bay presence in the Chiefs, with former international rake Hika Elliot.