It's been a dream for young Dannevirke rugby league player Zamaya Lilo to pull on the black New Zealand jersey. Now that dream has come true for the 15-year-old Dannevirke High School student.

And along with pride in his selection for the New Zealand Maori Under-16 team, comes the mana of following in a proud Lilo family history. Zamaya's great grandfather played for the Kiwis and his uncles and cousins have all represented Dannevirke Tigers.

"Zamaya's grandfather Charlie Lilo also played for the Tigers and has given huge support to my boy," mum Natasha said.

Zamaya has played much of his league with the Dannevirke Tigers, but moved to the Kia Ora Warriors in Palmerston North this season.


Playing representative league for the Mustangs and MidCentral Vipers, Zamaya's caught the eye of the national selectors at a recent tournament in Rotorua.

"The selectors liked what they saw," Natasha said.

"Zamaya puts a lot of effort into his rugby league and he gives everything to the game."
Zamaya also played in the Dannevirke High School's 1st XV this year and just a Year 10 student, he was the youngest in the team.

"I'm so proud of him," Natasha said.

And while Zamaya's ultimate goal is to make the New Zealand Warriors team and the Kiwis, ask him what comes first, schoolwork or league, and is answer is quick.

"Schoolwork," he said. "I definitely think I will have a good future if I do well at school and achieve in rugby league. It's going to be a dream come true to pull on the black jersey.

"When I was named in the Under-16 team I couldn't believe it. It's been hard work. The selectors picked me because they liked my aggressiveness on the field and said they needed more players like that."

Dannevirke Tigers team official Jeanne O'Brien said Zamaya's selection was "fabulous''.

"He is an extremely talented young man who has played rugby league for the Dannevirke Tigers through the age grades. His mum Natasha has been by his side the whole way - taking the role of team manager in Zamaya's rugby league journey. This year Zamaya played for Kia Ora Warriors as there was no-one willing to coach an Under-15s side for the Dannevirke Tigers.

"Zamaya shows excellent skill levels and huge passion and commitment for the game of rugby league and our community needs to get behind this young man and support his journey."

Zamaya said he loves rugby league because with just 13 men on the paddock it's much easier to make breaks.

"I enjoy the pace of the game," he said.

And Zamaya said it's his mother who has helped him to get this far, including taking him to Palmerston North every Friday night for games during the season since 2011.
"I enjoyed it," she said.

Natasha has been right behind both her sons since they started playing league together in 2011.

"Zamaya's older brother is really pleased with his success as he's watched him grow over the years," she said.

As well as his rugby league ambitions, Zamaya is also considering a career in the army.