College Sport: Pupils chase league dream

By Terry Maddaford

Warriors back drive to give sport bigger profile in schools with new winter competition.

Viliami Lolohea was still at Otahuhu College when he made his debut for the Warriors' NYC side in 2011. Photo / Photosport
Viliami Lolohea was still at Otahuhu College when he made his debut for the Warriors' NYC side in 2011. Photo / Photosport

Backed by the Warriors, league is set to take off as a serious player and a winter sport of choice in Auckland secondary schools.

While it will remain a Wednesday afternoon competition, there have been changes aimed at giving the sport a greater profile and further open the door for young players to join the Warriors and other NRL clubs.

Teams in the premier schools competition will now play for the Warriors Cup with the University Shield, the symbol of supremacy in the past, now to be played for in a subsidiary knockout competition.

Given a 10 per cent increase in projected playing numbers and with 18 schools expected to play in the premier grade, league is preparing for a meaningful competition spread over terms two and three whereas in the past it has been a compact competition played just in one term.

"After consultation with schools, we realised they wanted more games," said Auckland Rugby League Football Development Officer Duane Mann. "The schools told us they wanted a Super City-wide competition with more games.

In the past some teams played only five games.

"With the support of the Warriors the spotlight this year will be firmly on the boys' 1st XIII competition. The Warriors Under-20 squad is obviously a huge drawcard and by playing, and being seen more, there will be the opportunity for players to join the Warriors."

The local competition and in particular the end of season national championship has attracted scouts from many NRL clubs.

In the past, with the emphasis on the national competition, some players have played 1st XV rugby for their schools and then switched codes to play league at the national tournament.

Among the players who have played either rugby or league at their schools in recent years and gone on to the Warriors in either their National Youth Squad (under-20) or the NRL squad are Ken Maumalo (Southern Cross Campus), John Palavi (St Paul's), Vince Afoa (Otahuhu College), Siliva Havili (St Paul's), Ben Henry (KBHS), Konrad Hurrell (AGS), Solomone Kata (Sacred Heart), Abraham Papalii (Massey HS), Albert Vete (St Kentigern) and Ngataua Hukatai (King's).

Afoa and Papalii made their NYC debuts for the Warriors against the Roosters on Saturday.

Many others, including Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Otahuhu College) who played for the Roosters against the Warriors at Eden Park on Saturday, have gone to other NRL clubs.

Viliami Lolohea, 19, was still at Otahuhu College when he made his NYC debut in 2011 and was a first-choice player last year and has played both games this season.

Tuimoala Lolohea, 18 and no relation, is still at KBHS in their service academy. He made his NYC debut in the opening round this season and played again on Saturday.

With Stacey Jones now back at the Warriors as their fulltime Junior Recruitment and Pathways Coach, players will come under the spotlight more and more. The new-look 1st XIII competition is obviously a key part of Jones' role.

While results will always be important, the Warriors, as a club, are determined to play a major role in promotion of league on and off the field and give young players a pathway to a career beyond their schooldays.

- NZ Herald

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