New Zealand's best young rugby league stars have played their hearts out at Puketawhero Park this week and the national youth tournament semifinalists have been found.
The third and final round of pool play was played today and it was fruitful for the Waicoa Bay 15s and 17s teams, who had both won one and lost one in the first two rounds.
The 15s produced a clinical performance during a 32-10 win over Southern to finish second in pool A. They will play Auckland, the winners of pool B, in a semifinal tomorrow.
The other 15s semifinal sees last year's winners Counties Manukau take on Akarana - a replay of last year's final.
The Waicoa Bay 17s went up against Auckland knowing they needed a win to secure a spot in the semifinals. They won 20-8 which was enough to finish top of their pool on points differential. They will play Counties Manukau for a place in the final.
The other 17s semifinal sees the defending champions Akarana take on Southern - which is also a replay of the 2016 final.
While the tournament is an opportunity for young players to test themselves against the best, it also gives up-and-coming referees a chance to develop.
A hard-working group of referees and linesmen, with varying ages and experience levels, have had their hands full this week doing what can often be a thankless job.
Manawatu Rugby League Referees' Association chairman Hone Nikora-Davis said the tournament was "a place you can develop the kids, coaches, managers, administrators and the referees".
"We come in from all around the country with the view of continually developing ourselves like we are the players. We've got a crew of about 16 all up and we're all at different stages in our journey.
"It's very important to referee at tournaments like this. The players have scouts come and watch them and for us the New Zealand Rugby League are here watching our development.
"We've all got our national reputations, good and bad, but when they see us in action here they get a really good gauge of the quality there is among the referee community in the country," Nikora-Davis said.
He said important attributes for referees included being physically fit and having an in-depth knowledge of the rules.
"They need to be open and willing to learning as well. When we do our coaching of the referees, we give them feedback and sometimes it doesn't sound good. They have to be willing to take that feedback on board.
"Most of us have played league before. Sometimes it can be a challenge to stop thinking like players and start thinking like a referee. Each age group has a different set of rules too, so you have to be versatile.
"We've got an excellent team here this week and the whole group, in the last three days, have grown so much. As people and as referees."
National Youth Rugby League Tournament results - Day three
15s Pool A:
Counties Manukau 28 v Central 18
Waicoa Bay 32 v Southern 10
15s Pool B:
Akarana 60 v Northern 0
Auckland 44 v Wellington 0
17s Pool A:
Akarana 34 v Central 12
Counties Manukau 86 v Wellington 0
17s Pool B:
Southern 42 v Northern 16
Auckland 8 v Waicoa Bay 20