If the talent on display at Puketawhero Park this week is anything to go by, the future of New Zealand rugby league is bright.

Rotorua is hosting national youth rugby league tournaments for the 15s and 17s age groups. Teams from the Wellington, Auckland, Mid-Central, Upper Central, South Island and Northern zones are competing for the national titles.

Flying the flag for the locals are the Waicoa Bay teams in each age group, who both started the tournament strongly today.

The Waicoa Bay 15s showed a lot of heart in a narrow 18-16 loss to last year's champions Counties Manukau, showing the Auckland-based side may not enjoy the same dominance they have in previous years.


In the other 15s games Central beat Southern 22-18, Akarana and Auckland could not be split in a 20-all thriller and Wellington beat Northern 28-14.

In the 17s, Waicoa Bay got off to a rampaging start, running in tries for fun during a 48-4 win over Northern - the highest winning margin of the day.

Meanwhile, the 2016 17s champions Akarana started their title defence with a 28-10 win over Counties Manukau, Wellington and Central drew 32-all and Auckland beat Southern 14-12.

New Zealand Rugby League high performance manager Brent Gemmell said the annual tournaments attracted the best players from each of New Zealand's rugby league zones.

"These are all the boys in our pathways - our up-and-coming footballers. It's a high-quality tournament with a lot of talent scouts from Australia here, these are the future stars," Gemmell said.

Waicoa Bay fullback Te Mana Te Maari in action during the National Youth Rugby League Tournamentat Puketawhero Park on Monday. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER
Waicoa Bay fullback Te Mana Te Maari in action during the National Youth Rugby League Tournamentat Puketawhero Park on Monday. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER

"The 15s game between Counties and Waicoa was really close, Waicoa were unlucky not to win. We've got the same strong contenders as previous years but they will be challenged."

He said the tournament was an opportunity for local league fans to get down to Puketawhero Park and enjoy some quality match-ups, particularly with it being school holidays.

At 6pm on Wednesday, after round three of the tournament has been played, the New Zealand Secondary Schools team will face off against the New South Wales Combined High Schools team. It is the first of a two-game series, with the other fixture being played in Auckland.

The New Zealand side comprises the best of the players who competed at the National Secondary Schools tournament last month, including Rotorua Boys High School pupils Hayze Perham, Selesitino Ravutaumada, Tom Ale and Tukimihia Simpkins.

Unfortunately Perham is unable to play after injuring a leg while playing for the New Zealand 18s in Auckland at the weekend.

"It should be a really good game. We've played them four times and it is two-all at the moment," Gemmell said.

"Last year was the first time we've played two games, one in Rotorua and one in Auckland, and we won the game in Rotorua and lost the one in Auckland. So they've won one out of one in Rotorua and we're looking forward to making it two out of two."

On Tuesday the Waicoa Bay 15s play Central at 10.30am and the Waicoa Bay 17s play Southern at 10am.

National Youth Rugby League Tournament results - Day one
15s Pool A:
Counties Manukau 18 v Waicoa Bay 16
Southern 18 v Central 22
15s Pool B:
Akarana 20 v Auckland 20
Wellington 28 v Northern 14

17s Pool A:
Akarana 28 v Counties Manukau 10
Wellington 32 v Central 32
17s Pool B:
Southern 12 v Auckland 14
Waicoa Bay 48 v Northern 4