The Coastline Mariners will get a final hit out against Waikato before they diving into uncharted waters next week.

Today's warm up match against Waikato in Ngaruawahia will precede coach Jock Nicholson's naming of his 25-man squad that will compete in the North Island Championship competition.

The competition is in its inaugural year and the Mariners will open their campaign against the Taranaki Sharks at Pāpāmoa's Gordon Spratt Reserve on August 31 and will play the Northern Swords, Wellington Orcas and the Manawatu Mustangs in the following weeks.

For the top side at the end of the competition, there will be an opportunity for promotion to the national premiership.


The current Mariners squad is largely made up of Ōtūmoetai Eels and Pāpāmoa Bulldogs players while a handful of Putauaki Stags players are also in the squad.

Playing in the North Island competition is another massive marker for Coastline, who were removed from representative competition last season after defaults in 2017.

But, after proving they could field a team in two exhibition games in 2018 they returned to action this season with games against Waikato sides earlier this year.

Nicholson says he is a dreamer, but the ultimate goal is to get Coastline into the premiership. He says the excitement around representative rugby league has grown this year.

"We are looking forward to the challenge, they are playing against regions they have never played. Having Ōtūmoetai and Pāpāmoa playing in the Waikato competition has definitely helped make this team stronger," Nicholson says.

"It is a lot stronger side compared to last year and we have had good numbers at training. There is a lot of versatility in the team and we have players with league smarts. One of the key themes is that this is not club footy and our standards need to be high. There is a lot of enthusiasm in this team."

"When I first got into coaching, I was very competitive and always wanted to win. My philosophy has evolved, I want to see development.

"I believe if we work hard and as players they are understand their roles the results will come. For me it is about that development and creating that environment. My role is to make sure there is improvement, but certainly want to see them enjoy this year."


Nicholson is expecting a tough challenge against premiership side Waikato this week and it is a theme he expects to continue throughout the competition.

"This weekend might be a little bit higgledy-piggledy as we get the combinations going. I am not too worried about the result, I just want to see a good performance. I have a real good challenge picking the 17, and it is a nice headache to have."

The Mariners have a tough middle part of the North Island competition as they play the Northern Swords in Whangarei on August 31 and then play Wellington in Wellington seven days later. Also up for grabs is potential selection in a North Island team to play a New South Wales team and a touring English Lionhearts side in October.

Upper Central Zone Rugby League operations manager Hamana Amoamo says the competition is a great opportunity for players outside of the larger centres to play representative rugby league.

"They have the opportunity to be part of something bigger. There is a pathway for those younger players and we are trying to get everyone moving forward. That is what is good about this tier two competition, they are not just little brother watching big brother."

"It is fantastic to have them [Coastline] in this competition and we have high-quality people involved like Jock. Players have things that are attainable coming out of that 15 to 17 age. It is a good model and everyone has bought into it."

Coastline Mariners fixtures:
August 24 v Waikato (friendly), Hamilton

North Island Championship:
August 31 v Taranaki Sharks, Pāpāmoa
September 7 v Northern Swords, Whangarei
September 14 v Wellington Orcas, Wellington
September 21 v Manawatu Mustangs, Kawerau