A Northland rugby league clubrooms normally reserved for after match celebrations and commiserations will make room for a new team of young players.

New Zealand Rugby League officially opened the playgroup at Takahiwai Rugby Clubrooms this week, the first of its type in Northland.

Takahiwai League club secretary Juanita Hool at the playgroup opening. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Takahiwai League club secretary Juanita Hool at the playgroup opening. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Twice a week mums and their bubs will meet at the clubrooms to participate in early childhood programmes.

One of the parents already on the team is Kani Epiha, who took her 18-month-old son Rehua Martin, to the opening. She has been nominated as the "Parent Champ" and her aim is to encourage as many locals with young children to use the programme.


"There are a lot of young kids out here in the community that don't get to daycare.

"This gives them the opportunity to play with other kids and socialise and just gives them opportunities."

Her links to the club are strong with her grandfather, brothers and cousins involved in the Takahiwai club.

The programme is also designed to help parents as well. Some activities would be driven by government agencies with messages on domestic violence, health and safety in the home. New Zealand rugby league has been involved in creating eight playgroups in Auckland league clubrooms since 2013 and said Takahiwai fitted the bill when it came to hosting a playgroup in Northland.

NZRL community playgroups manager Marissa Holland said the playgroups had become an integral feature of the NZRL community plan, helping government agencies communicate with people they had struggled to reach previously. In 2014, Ministry of Education, Accident Compensation Corporation, Health Promotion Agency and NZ Police entered the "More Than Just A Game" partnership with NZRL.

"They already have lots of children around their facilities, so there's an opportunity for us to work with them to make it a safer environment for them. They will qualify for funding to achieve that," Ms Holland said.

Studies have shown that infants attending early-childhood playgroups learn more effectively when they enter the schools system.

The club has undergone scrutiny by the Ministry of Education before opening which included health and safety, curriculum, communication with parents and adequate resources to run the group.

Register through playgroups@nzrl.co.nz or the NZRL Community Playgroups Facebook page.