Two Dargaville youths are proving that good grass roots sporting talent still exists in small rural towns.
Shane Pumipi, 16, and Sam McKendry, 17, have been selected to represent New Zealand in coming rugby league matches against Australia.
Shane, who plays standoff, has been selected for the U16s and Sam, a prop, for the U18s Junior Kiwis teams.
Both boys represented Northland in rugby before switching to league two years ago.
The switch to league meant the two boys, who are "long-time good mates" had to travel from Dargaville to Whangarei for practices and games. Travel has been a huge hurdle for the pair which, apart from the cost, is also time-consuming for the players and their families.
Shane's mother Takiri Pumipi said both boys had put an incredible amount of time and effort into their training
"They are very disciplined players. Both want league as a career, both setting their sights on NRL competition," she said.
Both boys were the product of coach Jim Larkin, she said.
The family appreciated support from family, sponsors and Dargaville High School where Shane is a pupil.
"Principal David Bargh has been right behind Shane, encouraging and mentoring him all the way," she said.
Shane now plays for the Northcote Tigers and travels to Auckland on a Friday for weekend matches. He will be in the squad against the Queensland Academy in Auckland on September 27 and 30.
Sam, who attends Mt Albert Grammar School, plays for Auckland Lions. He is in the Barter Card games and Fox Tournament, and in the Warrior Elite Squad as the curtain-raiser to the Kiwis versus Australia tri-nation match on October 10 at Mt Smart Stadium.
During Labour Weekend, the pair will play in the Maori team tournament.