League strikes first in battle of codes

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League officials plan to get the provincial club season for juniors and seniors away early again this year to get a jump on their rugby union rivals as the cold war to win the attentions of the local players is reignited between the codes.

Rugby League Northland general manager Alex Smits announced the Northland senior club season would start on March 30 with a double-header in Whangarei at Blue Goose Park in Okara. The Hikurangi Stags vs Moerewa Tigers match is a replay of last year's grand final in which the Stags successfully defended the championship they won in 2011.

This will be preceded by the Warriors Development squad playing a Northland secondary schoolboys selection.

The Northland 1st XIII schoolboys team will be made up of the standout players from the 2013 Adam Blair Trophy, the annual tournament played for between eight Northland secondary schools this year.

Now in its third season, the first round of the Adam Blair Trophy - held by Whangarei Boys' High - is set to start on February 27.

Rugby League Northland also had a strong profile at the Family Fun Day at Waipapa on Saturday, handing out league packs, free bowls of Milo and putting on various activities allowing local youngsters to develop their passing and dodging skills.

There, Smits and Moerewa's Tommy "T" Tauranga signed up a good number of junior players for the coming mini/mod season which will be run by local league clubs throughout Northland this winter.

Smits also told of the exciting new Leadership in League programme being trialled in secondary schools throughout Kaitaia. This is a coaching programme in which local secondary school students gain valuable life skills by visiting and coaching primary and intermediate school students.

The programme - being implemented by RLN's new development officer, Tane Kaiwai of Kaikohe - should be in full swing this week and will form part of the phys-ed curriculum.

"This programme teaches secondary school students on how to be a coach," Smits said.

He laughed at the suggestion the template for the programme appeared to ask a lot of the students taking it.

"Not really," he responded.

"Yes, we're taking them out of their comfort zones. But I have trialled this in Wellington and every school began reporting 100 per cent attendance in PE classes. The kids were coming back [after coaching the younger counterparts], just bouncing off the walls."

The Leadership in League programme will be run in conjunction with a Northland DHB promotion, "Water is the best drink". This, with the rugby league academy project initiated in collaboration with NorthTec last year was evidence that his organisation was looking at a bigger picture, Smits said.

"It's showing Rugby League Northland is not just about organising tournaments."

- Northern Advocate

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