South Sydney Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly says the team is ready to take on the New Zealand Warriors on March 10 when the NRL giants kick off the season at Optus Stadium in an historic double header.
They will be joined by Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm in the first NRL matches to ever be played at the new sporting venue.
“It’s going to be a cracker, we’ve had some fantastic games against the Warriors so we are looking forward to renewing that old rivalry,” Solly said ahead of this weekend’s game.
The day prior to the big matches, Solly will be part of a panel discussing the ‘Business of Sport’ alongside Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill, Storm CEO Dave Donaghy and Warriors CEO Cameron George.
Guest speakers at the ‘teamwork beyond the field’ event will include Storm coach Craig Bellamy, Storm captain Cameron Smith and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg.
“We have an enormous amount of respect for Dave Donaghy and Andrew Hill. I’ve known Andrew for a long time and Dave as well. Cameron and I are a bit newer to the NRL but I think between the four of us we have some really interesting views on the sport and business of sport, which we are all passionate about growing,” Solly says.
The former lawyer and General Manager of Super League in the UK says he’s looking forward to the business lunch where great stories about the similarities between business and sport and views on how to expand the NRL will be shared.
“At the end of the day the biggest similarity between business and sport are that the same principles are there. We have to make sure our teams are performing well, that we understand the needs of our customer base and that our brands are strong,” he says.
“No matter what business you are in those three things are particularly important. In some ways we are all small to medium enterprises with huge public profiles, but the principles of running the businesses are exactly the same. We just have slightly different pressures and slightly different profiles.
“Anyone who attends the lunch will get a lot out of it. They will also hear from two wonderful ambassadors for the sport in Cameron Smith and Craig Bellamy. It’s going to be a wonderful afternoon.”
Playing in Perth for the 10th consecutive year – where the South Sydney club now has a 1000-strong fan base – has been a deliberate business strategy to expand the club’s reach outside of the NRL competition’s eastern states borders.
“I think for lots of reasons we have the strongest brand in the NRL competition and particularly in Perth where we have spent so long growing the number of members, so from a team and club point of view Perth is very important to us and has been for a long time.”
Solly says it’s important for the team to spend time playing the game out of their heartland.
“While ANZ Stadium in Sydney will always be home, we’ve always been innovative by playing games in Perth, the US, the UK, regional NSW and Queensland to ensure our fans – wherever they are – get a chance to see the team.
“We have always been willing to take on that mantle and go to new venues to help grow rugby league and grow the club.”
Solly says while the Rabbitohs have enjoyed their previous games at NIB stadium, it’s exciting to move on to the WA’s ‘the jewel in the crown’ Optus stadium.
“We’ve heard a lot about the stadium, a number of the staff have visited while it was being developed so we’ve been in the loop on the construction. Now it’s finished we’re extremely excited and proud to be one of the teams opening it.”
While Solly hasn’t seen the stadium yet, he’s happy to experience the venue for the first time like any other fan.
“Listening to the feedback, it is truly world leading and the experience for anyone attending is outstanding and our players can’t wait to get over there and open it as well.”
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