For the first time in five years, Rotorua Boys' High School return to the top tier of secondary school football.
The school's first XI will play in the Lotto Premier Tournament in Napier in the first week of September on the back of a gutsy qualification effort.
Rotorua's last appearance at the tournament was in 2014, where they finished 30th and preceding that was a ninth-place finish at the 2011 tournament.
Rotorua BHS director of football Mark Trembath says the team's return to the top echelon is a result of the culture they have created.
"We have a strong rugby culture at our school, so we wanted to have something around wearing the crest on your shirt and bleeding for that shirt," Trembath says.
"It is about going back to basics and we are lucky enough to have a football academy, where we are able to work with kids two to three times a week. It is focused on their passion and they can get that extra support.
"You need to put in groundwork with the intermediate schools as well. We are working with them in some way – it might be refereeing, helping with training sessions or getting a team of juniors together to play them.
"At the moment we are helping Mokoia Intermediate train for Aims Games, it is about supporting them and having a pathway to play at high school. It helps them understand the game more and where they came from. It also helps them break down the skills and they understand the technique better."
Rotorua earned their place at the tournament by grabbing one of the five wild card spots.
They missed out on the initial qualification route, a competition involving schools from Waikato-Bay of Plenty. Encouraging results against top football schools such as Hamilton Boys' High School and Tauranga Boys' College and then further progress in a regional tournament gave Rotorua a good enough resume to be chosen as a wild card.
"Our goal was to build towards next year, we thought it was important to normalise success and get them involved in everything this year. At the end of last year, after finishing third at the second-tier national tournament, we made the decision to try and qualify for the top tournament."
Rotorua captain George Parry says he is looking forward to the tournament.
"I believe it is a great opportunity and pathway to develop to the next level. It will be an amazing learning experience and the boys can't wait. We are all in the mindset of developing as much as we can," Parry says.
"We have developed a really strong brotherhood and with the help of our coaching staff we have seen a large improvement this year. Our defending has been incredible, and our counter-attacking has been decent as well. But we will have to leave nothing on the field and play hearty."
Trembath says having players in representative teams is beneficial as 13 of the 16 players in the first XI played for the under-16 Geyser team who are leading the Waikato Bay of Plenty competition.
"When it comes down to good and great players it is about doing the basics right. You can't work on the tactical stuff if you don't have the fundamentals."
Lotto Premier Tournament:
Park Island, Napier