They came from all over the Upper Central Zone Rugby League catchment region for a chance to learn from two Brisbane Broncos.

The development hub attracted coaches and 130 budding Shaun Johnsons from under-13 to under-17 age divisions at ASB Arena on Saturday.

Broncos elite player development manager Simon Scanlan and skills and recruitment coach Mick Kennedy came over from Australia to run the sessions.

The partnership between Upper Central Zone and the Broncos began in 2015 with the aim of growing the fundamental grassroots skill levels and structure of the game in the area that covers Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Coastline and Gisborne districts.


Scanlan says he loves coming over to facilitate courses and help grow an important part of rugby league's player base.

"What they are running here is a great example for probably a lot of the regions in New Zealand and a shining light of what a basic, skill-fundamental programme is all about," Scanlan says.

"The improvement in this region since we come here four years ago is huge. The improvement in how the coaches deliver the programme, the skill development of the kids and how they train is a big step in the right direction.

"The way they play at the tournaments in this region and how competitive they are against the bigger, faster kids from a bigger pool in Auckland has definitely closed the gap."

There are wider, holistic reasons why the Broncos are involved with helping rugby league in the Upper Central Zone region and not just trying to find the next big NRL star.

Scanlan says they do not come here just to work with the best kids or to recruit players.

"The mutual benefits are we get to work with the kids here, upskill those kids which benefits them and the game overall. It is a long-term approach to help in the region with the coaches and players and administration grown the game of rugby league. If the game gets smaller at grassroots level it affects everyone.

"From an NRL point of view New Zealand and the Warriors are really important and we all have to work together for the benefit of the game to get the best outcome and keep rugby league strong and alive."


New Zealand Rugby League national talent manager David McMeeken was an interested observer on Saturday.

"This is a huge benefit to the game not only for the players but more so for the coaches either being involved directly or shadowing Simon and Mick from the Broncos. Having their expertise over here is great for the zone and for the players and coaches going back to their clubs," he said.

Upper Central Zone general manager Mel Bennett said the day was a huge success.

"It means the kids are getting a good start. They only just started the season two weeks ago so this gives them a boost of confidence to have these [Broncos] guys over here delivering what they do," she said.

"It also filters up to the representative game so it can only benefit the programme in the long run."