Youngsters open for Warriors game

Developing well . . . Taking part in the under-15 Warriors development programme in Christchurch last weekend are (from left) Jackson Robinson, of Timaru Boys’ High School, Oliver Pankhurst, of Waimate High School, Nick Murray, of Timaru Boys’ High School, Lian Knoetze, of Waitaki Boys’ High School, Tyree Etti, of Roncalli College, and Dougal Grant, of Christchurch Boys’ High School. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

A group of young Aoraki rugby league players were given a golden opportunity when they took part in the curtain-raiser game for the New Zealand Warriors in Christchurch last weekend.

As part of a Warriors development programme, Jackson Robinson, 13, Oliver Pankhurst, 15, Nick Murray, 15, Lian Knoetze, 13, Tyree Etti, 14, and Dougal Grant 15, took to the field at the Apollo Project Stadium ahead of the Warriors clash with the West Coast Tigers.

The overall squad was made up of around 30 young players and split in half into two teams who played against each other before the game kicked off.

Aoraki Rugby League chairman and coach Nathan Robinson said it was a great opportunity for the young players.

‘‘It was really cool for the kids to get a chance to play at the Apollo Project Stadium, mix it up with some of the other Warriors’ pathway players and put their hand up and best foot forward in front of the Warriors’ development coach Tony Iro.

‘‘The game itself was very, very quick. I coached one of the teams and it was just fun, really quick footy.’’

It was nice to see how much it meant to the young players to have that opportunity, he said.

‘‘Our boys were really nervous going into the game, just thinking ‘wow’ — they probably over-played it,’’ he said.

‘‘For the Christchurch kids it was just another game of league but our boys really understood and knew what it meant and went out there and put their best foot forward,’’ Robinson said.

Prior to the game, the boys had been attending training in Christchurch with the Warriors for the past month.

Robinson said the improvement from that had been significant.

‘‘Our boys don’t play league all year round like the Christchurch kids do, so to get better specialised coaching shows, especially in the game yesterday, it shows how much they’ve grown in just in a month,’’ Robinson said.

‘‘It’s exciting times for these young kids.

‘‘It has just been a wee bit of a hassle getting five to six kids to Christchurch three times a week,’’ Robinson said.

The game also coincided with the announcement that the Warriors would be setting up an academy in Dunedin, which is where Aoraki as a region would fall under.

Robinson said that while plans and details were still in their infancy, he believed the introduction of a Dunedin academy would be positive .

‘‘It’s come to fruition pretty quickly.

‘‘It’s early stages but it’s going to be really good for the region and for league here.

‘‘I am thankful to the Warriors for recognising the potential in this area.

‘‘It’s exciting times and it’s going to be really good for these kid — it’s a real step in the right direction,’’ Mr Robinson said.

The Warriors will be returning to Christchurch again in March to take on the Canberra Raiders with plans to hold another development trial game, which Aoraki will hopefully take part in.