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West Coasters will have every chance to come face to face with NRL stars when the Warriors and the Newcastle Knights are in Greymouth next week for the Miners’ Solidarity Day charity rugby league match at Wingham Park on Saturday (February 5).

The two teams arrive on the coast on Thursday (February 3) ready to make a number of community appearances during a visit confirmed late last year following the death of 29 men in November’s Pike River mining disaster.

Warriors CEO Wayne Scurrah and his Newcastle counterpart Steve Burraston say their clubs are determined to do as much as possible to not only provide financial aid but to also lift spirits in a region left reeling and devastated by the mining tragedy.

In a joint partnership with the National Rugby League and the New Zealand Rugby League, the Warriors and the Coal & Allied-sponsored Newcastle Knights will distribute all proceeds from the match to the Pike River mining relief fund and to the West Coast Rugby League.

In confirming a detailed programme for the visit today, Scurrah said the players would be out and about in the community during most of their stay in Greymouth.

“Rugby league has been such a huge part of West Coast life but the people there very rarely see top-level teams and sporting stars,” he said.

“We are taking our whole NRL squad with us, giving fans the chance to meet all of our high-profile names like Manu Vatuvei, Micheal Luck, Simon Mannering, Lance Hohaia, Jerome Ropati, Sam Rapira, Ben Matulino, Lewis Brown and so many more as well as our new signings Feleti Mateo, Krisnan Inu, Steve Rapira and Shaun Berrigan.

“We just hope that through this visit we can do something to give the locals a little joy and something to look forward to after the way they have suffered.”

Nelson-raised Warriors captain Simon Mannering said the players were looking forward to being in Greymouth.

“Like everyone else in New Zealand, we all feel for the people on the West Coast and what they’ve had to go through,” he said.

“We just hope we can make a little bit of a difference and give them something to enjoy.”

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said it was humbling that the two NRL teams were showing their support to the West Coast.

“We’re just so excited and honoured that rugby league is doing this for the area, making such an effort to help us out. It’s really exciting for us after everything that has gone on,” he said.

After flying into Hokitika on Thursday afternoon, the Warriors will visit the Brunner Mine, also the scene of a mining disaster when 65 men lost their lives in 1896. A monument at the mine carries the names of those killed in 1896 as well as those who died in other mining disasters in the region, including the Strongman Mine in 1967.

Later in the afternoon, Tony Kokshoorn will welcome both teams at a public gathering at the Grey District Aquatic Centre.

On Friday morning, the Warriors and the Knights will hold separate open training sessions at the Suburbs Rugby League Club – as well as signing autographs afterwards – before they attend the West Coast Rugby League charity dinner that evening. During the dinner, the NZRL will present identification tags (or ‘dog tags’) to former Kiwis from West Coast.

On Saturday morning – Miners’ Solidarity Day – the two squads will be together for a breakfast attended by the mayor and members of the West Coast Invitation XIII which will play the Canterbury Bulls in the curtain-raiser to the NRL trial.

Later Warriors players not required for the trial will be involved in a kids’ carnival at the Suburbs club being run by the Warriors and the NZRL. Also lending a hand with goal-kicking coaching will be champion marksman and former Kiwi Daryl Halligan.

A minute’s silence will be observed before the main game on Saturday evening; top NRL referees Jared Maxwell and Tony De Las Heras will control the game.

While the Knights will leave Greymouth early on Sunday morning, the Warriors will stay on to join the public at Greymouth’s Waitangi Day picnic before flying back to Auckland at midday.

Ground entry for children is from $5, $15 for adults
Tickets are available from Greymouth i-Site Visitor Centre:
Phone: 03 768 5101
Fax: 03 768 0317

Thursday, February 3
11.50am: Warriors arrive at Hokitika Airport (transfer to Kingsgate Hotel)
12.45pm: Newcastle Knights arrive at Greymouth station (transfer to Ashley Hotel)
2.00pm: Warriors visit Brunner Mine
4.00pm: Official mayoral welcome for both teams at Grey District Aquatic Centre

Friday, February 4
9.30am :Open training session (Warriors), Suburbs Rugby League Club
11.00am :Open training session (Newcastle Knights), Suburbs Rugby League Club
6.30pm: West Coast Rugby League charity dinner, Miners’ Hall, Shanty Town, Heritage Park (Warriors and Newcastle Knights in attendance)

Saturday, February 5 – Miners’ Solidarity Day
8.30am: Breakfast, Australasian Hotel (Warriors and Newcastle Knights in attendance with Mayor Tony Kokshoorn and West Coast Invitation XIII)
10.00am: Kids’ Carnival, Suburbs Rugby League Club (run by NZRL and Warriors)
4.00pm: West Coast Invitation XIII v Canterbury Bulls, Wingham Park
6.00pm: Warriors v Newcastle Knights, Wingham Park
7.45pm: Signing session, Wingham Park
10.00pm: Mix ‘n’ mingle, Australasian Hotel (Warriors and Newcastle Knights in attendance)

Sunday, February 6
8.30am: Newcastle Knights depart
10.00am: Warriors attend Greymouth's Waitangi Day picnic
12.00pm: Warriors fly out of Hokitika Airport