Crusaders

Crusaders looking for a home in Victoria

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The Crusaders are continuing to pursue their long-term goal of playing some Super 14 ‘home’ games in Melbourne.

The Christchurch-based franchise is likely to play a regular season game against the Stormers in London next year, and that match may act as precursor to the team hosting a match in the Victorian capital in the 2009 season.

Melbourne is home to a sizable population of New Zealanders and there was a notable black presence in the MCG stands as Australia pulled off a remarkable 20-15 Tri-Nations win over the All Blacks on Saturday.

Indeed, Australia’s kicker Stirling Mortlock faced a barrage of noise every time he lined up the sticks – not the sort of support one would expect for a home fixture.

The voracious New Zealand support was duly noted by Crusaders CEO Hamish Riach who said the move would help his side to expand their support base and find back-up venues to avoid cricketing schedule clashes.

“We looked at playing the Brumbies in our opening game in Melbourne, but we never got to the point of seeking approval or making a formal application,” he told The Herald on Sunday.

“The Brumbies game was the right one but we decided to play another trial game in Melbourne to see if the support we have had there in the past could be replicated.

“Playing in Melbourne is something we don’t rule out and it is something we want to do in the future.”

The Victorian Rugby Union supports the move. The VRU and their Canterbury counterparts already share strong links, with Crusaders coaching staff providing support to the new Melbourne Rebels side in pre-season training for the inaugural Australian Rugby Championship.

“I would say the appetite for Super rugby has been enhanced truck-loads in the last 48 hours for a number of reasons, said president Gary Gray.

“If rugby really is going to have a national footprint in Australia how can it ignore the second biggest, or maybe even the biggest, sporting market in the country?

“We have an underlying passion for rugby in Victoria and maybe people in the traditional rugby provinces don’t realise that we will be celebrating 100 years of existence in 2009.

“We have produced 26 Wallabies and continue to provide Super 14 players.”

365 Digital

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