By PETER JESSUP
More Warriors will feature in the Bartercard Cup competition this year.
At a meeting of all 12 coaches and Warriors boss Daniel Anderson this week, it was made clear that players not involved in the NRL 17 will be released to clubs more frequently than they were last season.
Anderson feels the National Junior Competition that winds up this weekend, and now in its second season, is preparing the development players better and that they are at less risk of injury.
This weekend, current Warriors and juniors, plus several who have been at that or other NRL clubs, are scattered through the competition, allocated generally according to junior club affiliations.
Aussies Mark Tookey and Danny Sullivan will be turning out for Mt Albert.
The competition goes into its fifth season on a far better financial footing than has been the case, with the New Zealand Community Trust agreeing to put in around $650,000 from pokie money to cover airfares, medical and other costs.
There have been franchise changes to divorce the Bartercard competition sides from home clubs that foster them so as to prevent a drain on the Fox and lower grade competitions.
The aim was for the Bartercard sides to run without financial worries, said New Zealand Rugby League general manager Peter Cordtz. "All they have to worry about is the football."
It's an arrangement soccer can only dream of.
There are three franchise changes. Taranaki has gone after two seasons of struggling; the Manurewa Marlins have been absorbed by a realignment with the Eastern Tornadoes, with the Ellerslie club shifting to merge with Otahuhu; and a new Counties Manukau Jetz side is based at Papakura.
The existing franchises have a two-season deal to the end of next season. But the NZRL has already put the clubs on notice that it wants a better geographical spread and fewer clubs in Auckland by 2006.
The North Shore, Hibiscus Coast and Northcote have been told only one licence will be allocated from next year because the league does not believe there are sufficient juniors to support two teams in the area. Hibiscus, who do the most recruiting from outside, have been encouraged to talk about merging with backers of a Northland team.
In central-west, Auckland Mt Albert and the Marist-Richmond Brothers face the same deal, only one licence to be given for that area from 2006. And South Auckland will have two, rather than three, so further adjustment is necessary there.
There is $40,000 prizemoney up for grabs, $20,000 for the winners, then $10,000, $5,000, $3000 and $2000 for the teams making the top five playoffs.
Ten games will be screened live - all curtainraisers to the Warriors' games at Ericsson, plus the final.
There will again be a Bartercard selection involved in international football, a mid-July game against a Queensland Cup side in Brisbane in the offing.
There will be places for Bartercard players as well as NRL players in the NZ 'A' side to meet England 'A' tourists here.
The NZRL also has an offer from the United States for a three-way tournament between the US, Fiji and a Bartercard selection in Hawaii but is unsure if that can be accommodated time-wise, as well as financially.
Eleven players involved with the 2002 or 2003 NZ 'A' tour sides selected from Bartercard competition have since been signed to NRL clubs, including last year's winning captain and Bulls hooker Shane Beyers (Wests), wing George Carmont (Knights), David Fa'alogo (Souths), Fui Fui Moi Moi (Eels), Hale Va'asa (Cowboys) and Tevita Latu and Epalahame Lauaki (Warriors).
For this weekend's kick-off, Mt Albert have Tookey at prop and Sullivan in the second row when they play away to Wellington tomorrow night. Locking the pack is former Warrior Tony Tuimavave, with Anthony Swann in the centres. The side is coached by Kiwi selector Brian McClennan.
Marcus Perenara and Evarn Tuimavave play for the Marist-Richmond Brothers against Central Falcons at Fitzherbert Park in Palmerston North tomorrow afternoon.
Former Warrior Odell Manuel is at centre and up-and-comer Shannon Stowers at prop for the Hibiscus Coast Raiders, with talented fullback Daniel Floyd doing a Lockyer and shifting to five-eighth for the game against the new Otahuhu/Ellerslie franchise.
Raiders coach Tony Benson said Floyd would do well with the ball in his hands more often.
Curtain-raiser to that game on Ericsson No 2 is the final of the NJC Foundation Cup under-16s competition, with the Auckland Crowns selection playing the Auckland Sea Lions at 1pm.
The second new South Auckland Bartercard franchise, Counties Manukau Jetz, have two players who tried out at the Warriors, Sala Fa'alogo and Cheyenne Motu, one who is still trying in last year's NZ 'A' halfback Aoterangi Herangi, and former Mt Albert fullback Lee Finnerty, back from Halifax.
They open the season against the champion Canterbury Bulls, who feature Warrior prop Kane Ferris, at Massey Park Papakura tonight, with organisers expecting a 1000-plus crowd.
The NZRL regards it as a particular achievement that the three districts, Waikato, Coastline and Bay of Plenty, that were each struggling financially and for numbers, have been hauled up to a merged entity (WaiCoa Bay Stallions) that again allows representation in the national comp.
Warrior Bartercard Cup allocations
Canterbury Bulls - Kane Ferris and Richard Villasanti.
Counties Manukau - Henry Fa'afili.
Eastern and Manukau Tornadoes - Matt Jobson, Justin Murphy, Herewini Rangi.
Glenora Bears - Sione Faumuina, Epalahame Lauaki.
Hibiscus Coast Raiders - Tony Martin, Iafeta Paleaaesina, Karl Temata, Shannon Stowers.
Marist Richmond Brothers - Tevita Latu, Francis Meli, Jerome Ropati, Marcus Perenara.
Mt Albert Lions - Vinnie Anderson, Mark Tookey.
North Harbour Tigers - Louis Anderson, Brent Webb.
Otahuhu-Ellerslie - Thomas Leuluai, Toshio Laiseni, Manu Vatuvei.
Waicoa Bay Stallions - Aoterangi Herangi, Lance Hohaia, Wairangi Koopu.
Wellington - Vince Mellars.
Not tagged to run in the competition are skipper Monty Betham, Awen Guttenbeil, Stacey Jones, Ali Lauitiiti, Jerry Seuseu, Danny Sullivan, P. J. Marsh and Clinton Toopi.
The round one draw
Tonight: Counties Manukau Jetz v Canterbury Bulls, Massey Park, Papakura, 7.30pm
Tomorrow: Eastern Tornadoes v Glenora Bears, Ericsson Stadium No 2, 2.30pm; WaiCoa Bay Stallions v North Harbour Tigers, Davies Park, Huntly, 3pm; Central Falcons v Marist-Richmond Brothers, Fitzherbert Park, Palmerston North, 2.30pm; Wellington v Mt Albert Lions, Porirua Stadium, 7.30pm
Sunday: Otahuhu-Ellerslie v Hibiscus Coast, Ericsson Stadium No 2, 2.30pm