Rotorua brothers Shaq and Maurice Stone Jnr are not rugby league players, but they are set to make their debuts for the Warriors in an NRL competition.

This year eight clubs will have teams in the NRL Touch Premiership, a massive step for the growth of the sport, and the Stone brothers have been selected to represent the Warriors.

Shaq says being named in the team is "pretty surreal".

"When they introduced this competition I thought it was a huge opportunity for the sport and for it to actually become a reality - I can't describe how awesome it will be to put that Warriors jersey on," Shaq says.


"A year or two ago I never would've thought there would be an opportunity like this. Getting the call last week to say I'd made the team - I couldn't believe it to be honest."

The competition was formed last year through a partnership between Touch Football Australia (TFA), and the National Rugby League (NRL). It includes separate men's and women's competitions and features elite touch players from all over Australia and New Zealand.

Introducing the #NRLTouchPremiership teams including your 2019 Warriors Touch team ahead of their debut season 🤜🤛

Posted by Touch New Zealand on Tuesday, 19 March 2019

In it's first year the premiership was contested by six teams - the North Queensland Cowboys, Brisbane Broncos, Gold Coast Titans, Newcastle Knights, Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers.

This year the New Zealand Warriors and Sydney Roosters have been added to the mix.

Both Shaq and Maurice Jnr have represented the New Zealand Touch Blacks on multiple occasions, and will do so again at the coming World Cup.

"It's even more special to be able to do it alongside the bro, it's huge for my family as well," Shaq says.

"They're so proud of what we have been able to achieve so far and this is another one to add to the books."

He says the touch premiership is the catalyst the sport needs to boost its profile, not just in New Zealand and Australia, but all over the world.


"I'm glad it has happened and with the number of players who are participating in Australia and New Zealand, it's only going to grow the game more. The exposure within touch and league - we'll see the benefits within the next couple of years I'd say."

Maurice Stone Jnr in action for the Bay of Plenty Open Men's team at the 2019 National Touch Championships in Rotorua. Photo / File
Maurice Stone Jnr in action for the Bay of Plenty Open Men's team at the 2019 National Touch Championships in Rotorua. Photo / File

Maurice Jnr, 32, has been playing for the Touch Blacks since he was 17 and says the new competition is "pretty awesome".

"As long as I've been playing it's the first of it's kind. Touch has come a long way, everything is becoming a lot more professional. Even in terms of the game itself, the positioning and stuff is different, there are more specific roles and responsibilities on the field."

He says it is good to finally see the skill and talent of the sport being recognised at a professional level.

"You see stuff like lawn bowls being shown on TV and you think 'why can't we get that sort of coverage?'. Now we're finally getting that opportunity.

"Touch is the foundation for rugby, league, sevens - all those professional sports, so this is an awesome opportunity to show people the reason why some of our New Zealand athletes are the best in the world in those professions."

Maurice Jnr says the premiership will "definitely" attract more young Kiwis to the game as well as motivate them to stay with it long-term.

"Obviously we've been losing a lot of players to sevens, league and rugby - if you look at the New Zealand women's sevens team there are a lot of former Touch Blacks running around in that crew.

"Getting the exposure through the NRL is only going to help get young kids to stay in the sport I think."

2019 NRL Touch Premiership
26 game days
16 teams
8 clubs
12 stadiums
9 cities
5 months
2 nations
Starts April 6