St George Illawarra have welcomed the Wigan Warriors' announcement, in partnership with the Super League and Hull FC, that the first ever Super League game to be played outside of Europe will take place at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on February 10, 2018.
Wigan have entered into an oofficial Tourism and Destination Partnership with the New South Wales Government via tourism agencies Destination NSW and Destination Wollongong in order to facilitate a two-match tour of Australia also involving Hull FC.
Wigan and Hull FC will meet in an official Super League fixture to be played in WIN Stadium, Wollongong when Wigan take their home game to WIN Stadium on February 10.
The following week the two UK-based clubs will take part in the first ever double header between Super League and NRL teams at a single venue when the Dragons take on Hull FC and South Sydney face Wigan at ANZ Stadium on February 17, 2018.
The visit of the Super League teams will make a significant contribution to the NSW economy, both in Sydney and the region of Wollongong, and drive significant international and interstate visitation to the state.
New South Wales Minister for Tourism and Major Events Adam Marshall said he was excited by the prospects of Wigan and Hull FC's visit.
"Australia is mad for rugby league and I am thrilled the NSW Government has secured these exclusive matches for Sydney and Wollongong, which will drive visitors to both areas," Marshall said.
"The two Super League sides will spend two weeks in the state with the three-match tour expected to attract close to 5000 interstate and overseas visitors to NSW, injecting more than $7 million into the local visitor economy."
Wigan Warriors Chairman Ian Lenagan said the announcement was cause for plenty of excitement.
"This announcement is one of the most innovative and exciting in the history of Wigan Rugby League Club," Lenagan said.
"Representatives from Wigan have been in negotiations with a number of key stakeholders both in Australia and the UK over the last 12 months delicately pulling together this complex agreement.
"The Wigan fans are famed for their loyal support as shown when a huge army of supporters travelled to Sydney for the World Club Challenge game with Sydney Roosters in 2014.
"We firmly believe that the Wigan and Hull fans will be as excited about this venture as we are and we have announced early to allow fans the chance to plan their trip to Australia."
Destination Wollongong General Manager Mark Sleigh said the announcement came with a nice link, given Wollongong’s Deputy Lord Mayor John Dorahy coached the Warriors to Challenge Cup and first division glory in 1993-94.
"There are genuine links between Wigan and Wollongong and at the core of this partnership is the fact it represents two passionate and successful rugby league heartlands," Sleigh said.
"Announcing a significant international event as part of our ever-growing major events portfolio is a coup for the region."
"Wollongong’s love of rugby league is a defining aspect of our sporting culture and to have a giant of the international game making Wollongong its home is a wonderful opportunity.
"The last time Wigan came to Australia, they brought with them a touring party of 4500 fans, so the overnight visitation will be significant, with pre and post touring options planned to showcase the region’s attractions during the English winter."
St George Illawarra Dragons Chief Executive Peter Doust welcomed the initiative.
"The Dragons look forward to welcoming both Wigan Warriors and Hull FC to the Illawarra, and with an anticipated 5000 international and interstate visitors converging on Wollongong we are sure the community will embrace the opportunity," Doust said.
"It's the community's chance to experience the unique atmosphere generated at the first Super League game to be played outside Europe.
"The Dragons will be working alongside both Super League teams while they are in our region on a range of activities that will benefit the local community and continue to strengthen Rugby League.
"We are also excited to be participating in the first ever international double header against Hull FC at ANZ Stadium the following weekend."
Tickets and travel packages for both games will go on sale at the end of August with well over 5000 UK fans expected to travel with the teams.
Dragons Red V Members will be provided with an exclusive window to pre-purchase tickets to both events before they go on public sale.
These details will be communicated directly to members.