Whangarei BHS will join North Harbour's 1A first XV competition this season.
It is a positive move for both Whangarei BHS - a big fish in a small Northland schools rugby pond - and North Harbour's top rugby schools, whose flagship competition has been a three-horse race.
Last season, Whangarei BHS defeated North Harbour champions Rosmini in the Blues regional playoff and gave a good account of themselves against St Kentigern in the Blues schools final.
"We need regular, quality competition for these boys so they have a pathway," said Whangarei BHS coach Todd Hamilton. "We're going to be full-on trying to be competitive in the North Harbour 1A."
Birkenhead, runners-up in the 2015 1B competition, rejoin the top flight after a season out, making for an eight-team competition.
North Harbour Rugby Union operations manager Miles Marcroft said the approach came from Whangarei BHS, who sought approval from the Northland union. "Whangarei offered to travel for every game but we said we'd go up there. I think it's a win-win for everyone," he said.
Rosmini coach Mark Free endorsed Whangarei's inclusion. "They'll be competitive. We couldn't beat them twice last year, so it's good having them in."
The Whangarei first XV have traditionally played in a Northland under-18 competition but that was scuppered in 2015, meaning they played eight official matches only.
Both the North Harbour 1A and Auckland 1A competitions kick off on May 7.