The Warriors may field a junior team in next year's SG Ball competition to allow their rising stars to test themselves against Australia's best young talent.

The Auckland-based NRL club are considering different options around establishing their own SG Ball side or forming a connection with an existing club to play their juniors in the prestigious 17-team New South Wales under-18s competition.

The Warriors currently blood their best 17-year-old players in the NRL's under-20s competition, which is being scrapped at the end of the season, with statewide competitions to replace it next year in New South Wales and Queensland.

The Warriors are likely to continue to field a side in the NSW under-20s competition, but an SG Ball team would provide more juniors with opportunities against players their own age.


The high profile under-20s competition has long been criticised for being inadequate in preparing players for the NRL and putting unnecessary pressure on young up-and-comers.

The Warriors have dominated the youth competition since it formed in 2008, winning titles in 2010, 2011 and 2014, and finishing runners-up in 2013.

That success hasn't always translated to the club's young stars excelling at first grade level, but the Warriors hope exposing their players to the SG Ball competition will accelerate their development and help bridge the gap between the New Zealand and Australian junior systems.

"We're looking at a few options and that's one of them, where we have our own team in the competition," said Warriors recruitment and development manager Tony Iro.

"The one big advantage the Australian system has over us is that there's a really strong school competition there.

"Kids basically from the age of 14 are being introduced to some pretty good systems, and obviously then if you move into the Harold Matthews under-16s and SG Ball under-18s with the NRL clubs, they have a really good pathways system in place.

"If we can bridge a small part of that hole with an under-18s team, that would be very beneficial in terms of how we develop our kids."

Establishing their own side will be costly for the Warriors and the club is examining different options around basing players in Sydney, rather than flying an entire team back and forth across the Tasman each week.

The club is considering setting up a house in Sydney where players could live for the duration of the 13-week season which runs from February to April.

The Warriors last year set-up a six-bedroom rented Howick property to house five junior players and NRL front-rower Sam Lisone under the guidance of house parents Spencer and Carmen Taplin. In between school and football commitments, the youngsters learn life skills and are expected to meet high standards in terms of nutrition, rest, recovery and preparation as aspiring professional players.

Another option would see the Warriors establish a partnership with an existing SG Ball team to play their best juniors, while the cheapest option would see a Warriors under-18s team embark on a pre-season tour to play several trial games against SG Ball sides.

"There's a few options and obviously each differs a little bit in cost," said Iro.

"It won't be a cheap exercise but certainly it's probably the one hole in our development pathway, in terms of allowing us to give our best junior kids an opportunity to test themselves against the best Australians."