Len Reid has waited nine long years for rugby league to be one of the elite sports on show at the NZCT AIMS Games and it is hard to wipe the smile off his face.
The rugby league development officer for Sport Bay of Plenty's Bay Trust Coach Force says it is great to have the opportunity for young league players from all over New Zealand to be part of such an inspiring event.
"A lot of development work has gone on over the last five years in primary and intermediate schools, so there is now quite a strong following in this age group," Reid said.
"These kids will all end up at high school in the next year or two and high school football is getting bigger and bigger at that level. This is good preparation for them."
The recent national secondary schools rugby league tournament was the biggest by some margin, with traditional rugby schools joining in the action for the first time.
Reid believes the trend will continue but he does not see any reason for conflict between the two codes.
"There is enough room for both codes. Traditionally, rugby union has been the main option and rugby league the poor cousin, but now young players have a choice.
"It is all about opportunities to go further."
The high standard of league on display at Granada Park in Arataki has impressed Reid, with local boys Papamoa College showing early indications they may well be at the medal presentation after the finals tomorrow.
"The quality of play has been high, considering the blustery, showery conditions.
"There is a lot of ball movement. The refereeing is also of a very high standard and we are using students from Tauranga Boys' College for that.
"But I like Papamoa College's chances. Most of the boys play league for Papamoa Bulldogs, so that's good to see."
A reason for the almost non-stop flowing action in the games is due to the teams playing nine-a-side rather than the normal 13-a-side, which opens up plenty of space out wide.
But Reid says promoting a more entertaining style of football was not the reason for the change.
"We wanted to give some of the smaller schools an opportunity to get 13 or 14 players together, whereas if you play the 13-a-side game, they would have to bring a bigger squad of at least 20 players.
"It was just to increase our participation and as a result, we have schools from places like Kawerau and Matamata that we may not have had otherwise."
Pool play continues at Grenada Park today, with semifinals and finals tomorrow.