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Future Feast At 'House Of Football'

June 28, 2002

There's a feast of football - rugby and soccer - coming up at the North Harbour Stadium over the next four months with everything from club matches to international tests on offer.

Dubbed the 'house of football', the Albany venue has already hosted the NZ Maori-NZ Barbarians rugby match last Friday (June 21) and a reunion of the (soccer) All Whites' World Cup class of '82 the previous weekend.

This Sunday (June 30) the current All Whites play Scottish Premier League side Dunfermline at 2pm. This match sets the scene for many examples of 'the beautiful game' including the Nations Cup quadrangular tournament featuring New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Tahiti which will be played on July 5, 7 and 9.

The final of the Bluebird Chatham Cup, the country's club knockout competition, will kick-off at 2.30pm on July 21.

Rugby takes over the following weekend when the North Harbour Rugby Football Union hosts its club finals from 9.30am - 5pm on the country's election day of July 27.

Before the National Provincial Championship (NPC) starts proper, North Harbour Stadium will see the post-Buck (Shelford) era begin with the home side playing 'friendlies' against Taranaki (August 3, 7.30pm) and Northland (August 10, 7.30pm).

Under new coach Russell Jones, Harbour's four home games in NPC 2002 are against Bay of Plenty (August 17, 7.35pm), Wellington (September 7, 7.35pm), Otago (September 14, 2.35pm) and Southland (October 5, 7.35pm).

If, like last season, the Mark "Sharky" Robinson-led side makes the top four play-offs, the North Harbour Stadium could once again host an NPC semi-final on either October 19 or 20.

Between those professional inter-provincial contests, the North Harbour region's best secondary school players will play at the stadium on consecutive Saturdays - August 17 and 24.

Access to and from the Stadium is now one of the best in the Auckland region, says North Harbour Stadium general manager, Wayne Scurrah. "Travellers coming from both north and south can exit the motorway at the Oteha Valley Road turnoff and comfortably park their cars within metres of the Stadium entrance."

To mark the occasion of Harbour's scheduled tenth challenge for the Ranfurly Shield - against holders Canterbury at Jade Stadium, Christchurch on September 28 - local supporters unable to travel south are invited to come along to North Harbour Stadium to watch the match (kick-off 7.30pm) on a big screen.

Wayne Scurrah says there will be free entry and free parking for anyone who wants to come along.

"The ASB Bank Lounge will open at 6pm with food and bar facilities close to hand with unobstructed views of the 10ft x 12ft screen. This could turn out to be the party of the year if Harbour is successful in its challenge.

"Our team has been a bit unlucky over the years and we've been unable to bring home the Log 'o' Wood despite nine valiant attempts," he says.

North Shore City Mayor and former Northcote club player, George Wood, says 2002 could be Harbour's year. "We were the only team to down Canterbury in the NPC last season when we beat them at Albany. It will be a tough game for us but we had their measure last year and our style of play could upset their team of stars again," says Mr Wood, patron of the East Coast Bays club.

North Harbour Stadium's versatility was put to the test recently when it provided an overflow exam venue for neighbour Massey University. The stadium's Harbour Function Centre provided the venue for both the tertiary exams in June and Massey's inaugural ball in April.

"We held our 75th Anniversary Graduation Ball at the Stadium on April 20 to cap off capping week," says Massey University registrar Andrea Davies.

"The highlight of the night was undoubtedly the fireworks display which we viewed from the upper stands. The Stadium provided the perfect venue for the spectacular display to music.

"We're lucky to have the Stadium, it is a tremendous resource to have on our doorstep," she says.

This year the centre will host everything from wine tasting to weddings, a cultural counterpoint to the feast of football on the fields outside.


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