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Warriors short-listed to open 2025 season in Las Vegas

Te Ahikaa Trotman, Te Rito Journalism Project

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Warriors are on a shortlist of teams in contention to play the first two games of 2025 in Las Vegas next March.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

The 2024 NRL Season kick-off in Las Vegas saw the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, Brisbane Broncos and the Sydney Roosters play before American fans with 61,000 tuning in - it set a record across Australia and New Zealand, with 4.1 million fans taking in the action.

Fresh off the Warriors win against the Canberra Raiders in Christchurch last Friday night, coach Andrew Webster’s side moved to a one-win, two-loss record going into Easter Sunday’s clash against the Newcastle Knights, where Webster’s focus lies.

Webster wasn’t phased by the Las Vegas idea.

“I actually didn’t know about it but, if we go to Vegas, we go to Vegas. We’ve got our own, we got Mount Smart Vegas here this weekend and it’ll be rockin’ better than Vegas.”

The reigning premier Penrith Panthers are the only team confirmed to be traveling to the US. The other teams short-listed are the Melbourne Storm, Newcastle Knights, North Queensland Cowboys, Canberra Raiders and the Dolphins.

Vegas or Mount Smart

Many fans believe the Warriors, who spent a lot of time in Australia during the Covid-19 lockdown, were hard-done in not being selected to play in Vegas this year.

Veteran halfback Shaun Johnson has backed the idea, and says it would be a good reward.

“That’s pretty cool that we’re in the mix for that. Surely they can reward us with something like that.”

“If it’s not Vegas, it better be Mount Smart, and, if it’s not Mount Smart, it better be Vegas.”

Johnson’s career is on the wind-down and he’s yet to confirm whether he will be playing next season, but if they are selected to go, he says he’ll be there.

“Let’s just say, if we’re in Vegas, I’m going to be there either way, whether it’s running a blue (trainer’s) shirt, playing whatever it is, I’ve gotta be there for that.”

Vegas rumours aren’t the only US exposure the Warriors have received this week, Comedian Jack Black showed his support for the New Zealand side, stating the popular phrase “Up the Wahs”.

Johnson is enjoying rugby league’s exposure.

I’ve always said that if we showcase rugby league in a positive light, then I’m all for it.”

“I’m always trying to win over people. If they’re soccer fans or rugby fans then you can be league fans too. We don’t have to pigeon-hole ourselves.”

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