A burgeoning shot at a career in the NRL awaits two aspiring Northland schoolboys.
Nathan Newton and Caleb Aekins have signed with the Warriors and Penrith Panthers respectively, and will now focus their energy toward making the cut into the clubs' premier grades over the next few years.
Newton was in a position to pick and choose which club to sign with, after also receiving an offer from the Penrith Panthers.
However, Warriors development manager Duane Mann stepped into the picture to help keep the Whangarei Boys' High student in New Zealand.
"I've had my eye on Nathan for a couple of years now. He performed well at the NZRL National U17s last year, then he was a standout player in the NorthTec Adam Blair XIII vs Warriors Development Squad in March this year," Mann said.
"He followed this up with a great performances for the Swords in the Upper Central U17s Tournament, then for Boys' High at the recent NZRL Secondary School Nationals. He is strong, with a great work ethic and very coachable."
Newton will join a successful Warriors U20s programme, a side who have managed three National Youth Competition (NYC) premiership wins.
Meanwhile, Aekins, another Whangarei Boys' High School pupil, will make the trip across the Tasman to the Panthers after being an integral part of the Northern Swords junior system for the past three years.
Playing at stand-off or centre, Aekins has been an NZRL trialist for the past two years and, in his first premier season with the Hikurangi Stags won the man of the match award and an Rugby League Northland Scott Electrical Premiership winner's medal.
Selected for his maturity, vision, strength, speed and impressive work ethic, it was a matter of time before Aekins got his break.
"It'll be quite different living away from home but I'll get used to it," he said.
Newton and Aekins were recruited by Australian player representative Daryl Mather. Mather was the man responsible for signing Sam McKendry, James Fisher-Harris, Corey Harawira-Naera and Steel Kake to the Panthers.
A regular visitor to Northland, Mather recently brought legendary NRL coach and current Panthers general manager Phil Gould to Whangarei.
"Only the very best, the very elite, the very committed play NRL football," Gould said.
"It's not easy and there's a lot of competition. Some kids are ready for first grade at 18, now that's a very rare group, but there are some.
"It's not for all kids. Some kids get there and don't like it, they don't like the intensity of it ... some kids thrive on it."
-Northlander Bayleigh Bentley-Hape from Moerewa has just signed with the Sydney Roosters to become part of their 2016 Harrold Mathews U16s campaign. Bentley-Hape made the move to Sydney this year after being scouted playing touch. He played for the Souths Juniors U15s Club where he joined fellow Northlanders Harry Larkin, TJ Sionetali, Trenity Peters and Dalton Armstrong. Larkin, Sionetali and Armstrong have reportedly signed to play in South Sydney's 2016 Harrold Mathews U16s campaign, while Peters has signed with the Canterbury Bulldogs.