The NRL has confirmed a charity match between the Newcastle Knights and New Zealand Warriors in memory of the Pike River Coal disaster.
The pre-season charity match will raise funds for the families of victims and also hopes to raise the spirits of the people in Greymouth, on the west coast of New Zealand’s south Island.
The game will be played on February 5, at Wingham Park in Greymouth, and NRL chief executive Peter Gallop said he hoped the game would “bring some joy and financial assistance to a community that has touched the hearts of all Australians and New Zealanders”.
"The Warriors are part of the fabric of New Zealand’s sporting community and the links between the Knights and the mining community are such that this will be an emotional occasion for the players as well as the fans," Gallop said.
The mining-rich Newcastle region has strong links to the tragedy, with men from Newcastle and Singleton sent to Greymouth as part of the NSW Mine Rescue team. Ben Rockhouse, one of the 29 men who perished in the mine, was also born in Singleton.
Knights chief executive Steve Burraston said the game is a way for the club to help the families who lost loved ones.
"We see this as an opportunity to help lift the spirits of the West Coast community and raise much-needed funds in their time of need," Burraston said.
"As a club that has been built on coal mining, in a town that was founded by the same industry and with our naming-rights sponsor as Coal and Allied, we feel it is our duty to support those who support us."
Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said the match recognises the ties the teams have with the mining community and will reach out the the families in their time of need.
"We were determined to do what we could to provide some support and we’re really pleased the Knights have been able to join us in making this event possible, especially with Newcastle’s common link with the west coast through the mining industry," Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said.
"It’s our wish to boost the relief fund in a tangible way and to also help rugby league, a sport which has such a close connection with mining on the west coast and with so many of the families affected by what happened at Pike River."