Moana Pasifika have claimed Mt Smart Stadium as their home ground for their 2022 Super Rugby Pacific debut season and beyond.
With NZ Warriors seemingly facing another NRL season based across the Tasman in Australia, their Auckland base will now be occupied by the fledgling Pacific professional rugby team, close to a ready-made South Auckland fan base.
"We’ve worked extremely hard to get to this point, and to have a sense of home and place to continue building our unique brand in the world's most competitive professional competition is huge," says Moana Pasifika patron Tuifa'asisina Sir Bryan Williams.
"It's not lost on us that Mt Smart/Rarotonga has been the home of the Warriors since 1995, when they too began their journey as a start-up franchise. It’s a real privilege and honour to be welcomed into this iconic sports facility, and share space with a team that has forged a special place in our sporting landscape, and in the hearts and minds of so many.
"We know that our community of supporters know this venue well, and we know they will bring intense passion, colour and energy when they come out in numbers to support their team. We can't wait to welcome fans to our new home, their fale."
Mt Smart has laid largely idle over the past two years, with COVID-19 forcing the Warriors offshore, but the 25,000-seat facility has most recently hosted rugby internationals between the All Blacks, Māori All Blacks, Tonga and Samoa.
Even before that, it had become a home away from home for Pacific rugby league teams, particularly Tonga, as they established their giantkilling reputation among the game's superpowers.
Moana Pasifika have locked in Mt Smart until 2028, but still hope to take their team to the Pacific Islands whenever possible.
"As the competition evolves and subject to international borders being open, our intention is to play games in Samoa and Tonga, and expand our presence across our Moana," says Sir Bryan.
"To grow the game in the Pacific, we need to inspire our young players from an early age. They'll see their heroes run out on the field in Moana Pasifika colours and believe that they can be just like them when they grow up."