Te Kahi Nathan featured among 80 of New Zealand's most talented under-16 and under-18 league players invited to attend the annual NZRL National High Performance Camp and Trials in Cambridge last month.
Selection into the camp represented another feather in the cap for the 17-year-old Nathan, also the deputy head boy at Kaitaia College.
He has played for numerous teams at provincial, regional, national and international level including the Swords 15 and 17s sides, the Tai Tokerau Maori 17s, the Hikurangi Stags 18s and, earlier this year, the NZ Maori 18s in the Pasifika Youth Cup. He also captained the Sword 18s in the Rueben Wiki Challenge Cup (as Northland did not have an U18 club competition this year).
Three other Northlanders were also selected for the camp and trials: Hoani Rogers-Brown (Nathan's friend and long-term teammate in many of these sides, also aged 17, Dargaville High), Manny Snooks (WBHS, Portland Panthers, Swords and NZ Maori U16s) and Nokisi Kaiarake (Bream Bay College, Takahiwai Warriors, Swords and Samoan U16s). U16 and U18 merit teams will be selected from the trials, with the 16s playing a NZ Maori U17 selection, and the 18s playing a NZ ex-pat selection (Australian-based NZ U18 players) before the 16s and 18s squads are finalised later this year.
The camp from April 25-28 also featured a number of clinics and whiteboard sessions hosted by several former Kiwis and Warriors players including Nigel Vagana, David Faiumu and Ali Lauititi among others.
The seminars included talks about factors which could influence someone's image as both person and player, the best ways to prepare for dealing with challenges and how to bounce back from the ups, downs and set-backs that come with the territory, the numerous career opportunities available regarded as an important part of the professional game, with the NRL having a 'No work, No study, No play' philosophy and a discussion around gratitude, empathy and mindfulness essential to maintaining optimum well-being.
Francis Meli talked about his journey from grassroots league in Auckland to professional NRL, providing a valuable insider's gaze into relocation and outside influences that could hinder or help players, and the tools that could be applied to allow them to perform consistently at the highest level.
There was also a session for parents on the reality of relocating to a different country to play and the associated costs.