This rugby-dominated weekend will be ablaze with thrilling action as diehard fans gear up for two exciting contests. Only a few hours separate an adrenaline-rush showdown between the Warriors and Penrith Panthers in a qualifying final from the All Blacks’ World Cup opener against France.
In a head-turning prognosis, Warriors’ CEO, Cameron George, asserts that the Warriors’ face-off with the Panthers will garner a larger audience than the All Blacks’ curtain-raiser. “The way the country is gravitating towards the Warriors is beyond belief,” he articulated, likening the fervor in New Zealand to the spell that Australia comes under when the Melbourne Cup takes place.
According to George, the Warriors-Penrith semi-final, slated for 6 pm on Saturday, will bring New Zealand to a standstill, much like the impact of the Melbourne Cup in Australia. The National Rugby League’s scheduling decision to allot an earlier time slot for the clash will further invigorate Rugby interest in New Zealand.
“The All Blacks commence their World Cup journey with a vigorous tussle against France at 6 am on Saturday. I guarantee that our evening match will outdraw the World Cup engagement,” he predicted.
The match is scheduled for a 6.05 pm kick-off at the BlueBet Stadium in Penrith. It’s a rerun of the 2018 playoffs where the Panthers outplayed the Warriors in a similar face-off. Interestingly, even in their only regular-season showdown earlier this year, the Panthers emerged victorious with an 18-6 win on May 6.
In team news, robust middle forward Jazz Tevaga, sidelined by a hamstring injury in recent weeks, is returning as the Warriors gear up for their first finals in half a decade. Even as they prepare for this deciding match, the team is pulling out all stops, incorporating a private jet to facilitate their voyage to Australia.
Should the Warriors, who have secured a top-four finish for the first time since 2007, take down the minor premiers, they will be just a win away from the grand finale. A win will send them straight to the preliminary finals in what would be a commendable Auckland setup. It’s to navigate such potential scenarios, and more, necessitating logistical wizardry, that the team has enlisted charter flights and a 65-seat private plane.
Meanwhile, George reports an impressive surge in Warriors merchandise sales, up 200% from the previous year and currently out of stock. “We are witnessing an unprecedented phenomenon. It is simply astonishing,” he expresses.
This appearance marks the ninth instance of the Warriors’ successful charge into the finals and only the third time they’ve made the top four.
In more team news, Shaun Johnson emerged as the star of the Warriors’ end-of-season awards on Monday. He was at a loss for words as he received the Simon Mannering Medal for the Warriors’ player of the year, triumphing over tough competition from esteemed finalists Tohu Harris, Addin Fonua-Blake, and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad. He also bagged the prestigious Players’ Player of the Season, and the People’s Choice award, capping off an incredible career resurgence this year.