The national youth rugby league tournaments in Rotorua this week provide a window-shopping opportunity for some of the best eyes in the business.

Spread amongst the coaches, officials and spectators on the sidelines are scouts from a range of NRL clubs who know first-hand what raw talent and strength a lot of young Kiwi players possess.

The North Queensland Cowboys played in the NRL Grand Final on Sunday and were led there by rampaging New Zealand-born forward Jason Taumalolo, who was scouted by the club and moved to Townsville at the age of 14. He is arguably the best forward in the game at present and this year signed a 10-year, $10 million deal with the club.

Cowboys recruitment manager Clint Zammit is at the New Zealand 15s and 17s tournaments in Rotorua this week, hoping to find players with the same sort of raw talent Taumalolo possessed at a similar age.


"We've got two or three boys on contract already playing here, so I've come to see them play as well. I've been to this tournament for the last four years and we've picked up some good players," Zammit said.

He said the recruitment of New Zealand players by Australian clubs had become more prominent during the last five or six years.

"The Polynesian kids here are a different type of athlete, they're big and powerful and when we get them in our system with some good coaching there's a lot of upside. In Australia they have a bit more footy in them and are a bit more skilful.

"You have to have a succession plan going forward and hopefully you have the right people progressing through the system. I like to look at kids who have some raw talent and toughness, but the first thing we look at is if they are a good person - especially for our club. The hard workers are the ones who make it," he said.

Warriors development co-ordinator Jordan Friend said the club made an effort to look at players from all over New Zealand and ensure there were pathways for their development.

"We work around the country and track players from different regions. We've got Autex house in Auckland, which is catered towards kids from outside Auckland where they live with the house parents. Next year we have guys like [Rotorua Boys' High School pupil] Hayze Perham who will join top junior players hailing from places such as Northland and Christchurch.

"We've been down here for the New Zealand Maori tournament and the Central North Island tournament, so it's good to see some of the boys again. It's been a big year, some of them are a little fatigued, but I think as the week progresses the quality of the football will get better," Friend said.

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Te Amorangi Hindmarsh takes a hit-up for the Waicoa Bay 15s. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER
Te Amorangi Hindmarsh takes a hit-up for the Waicoa Bay 15s. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER

He said the quality of rugby league fluctuated from year to year in the different age groups, but there were some good young players coming through.

"We've got a number of boys here who are already in our system. It's not really just about finding new players, it's about tracking them to see how they're going and how they're developing. Monitoring their attitude both on and off the field at the tournament.

"Being an NRL club based in New Zealand we have the benefit of being able to work with these players rather than relying purely on the local pathways to develop them.

"[Having young players coming through at the club] is massively important, it's the strength of a successful club. The majority of the Vodafone Warriors squad would've played in tournaments like this, including Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Sam Lisone and Hayze Perham," he said.

The second round of both the 15s and 17s tournaments were played today and both Waicoa Bay teams are sitting on one win and one loss, with one round of pool play left.

After hammering Northern 48-4 in the first round yesterday, the 17s side was brought back to earth with a hard-fought 28-22 loss against Southern.

They sit second in their pool and will need to beat table-topping Auckland tomorrow to ensure they make the semi-finals. However, if they lose and Northern beat Southern, they could still make it on points differential.

The 15s bounced back from an 18-16 loss against Counties Manukau in round one with a convincing 40-10 win over Central.

A win over Southern tomorrow should see them make semi-finals, but they will need other results to go their way.

National Youth Rugby League Tournament results - Day one
15s Pool A:
Counties Manukau 24 v Southern 8
Waicoa Bay 40 v Central 10
15s Pool B:
Akarana 28 v Wellington 4
Auckland 0 v Northern 0

17s Pool A:
Akarana 40 v Wellington 8
Counties Manukau 54 v Central 8
17s Pool B:
Southern 28 v Waicoa Bay 22
Auckland 38 v Northern 10