AROUND 90 teenagers had plenty of open ground to show the Vodafone Warriors development coaches that they are worthy of a contract at Cooks Gardens yesterday.

The first National Youth Competition (NYC) trial held by the club outside Auckland had a few less attendees than anticipated, but all the talent known to the club from the lower North Island was there to press their claims.

After registering what positions they preferred at the start of the morning, the players were split into teams for nine-a-side matches, with the wet weather adding to the challenge.

Football events co-ordinator Jordan Friend, the son of former Kiwi Clayton Friend, said during the second match that they had already earmarked 10 players showing potential, for another session at the end of the day.


Many of this current crop, born between 1996-98, were relatives of players who have gone on to play in the NRL, with surnames like Luke and Taylor being prominent.

Friend said with several of the current Junior Warriors Under 20s squad moving on, there are openings for bolters to earn consideration.

The club recently purchased a home stay in Auckland for players from outside the big city to be able to stay while they are with the wider Under 20s squad.

"For some guys, they don't have family up there so Auckland is like Sydney in many ways," said Friend.

Also patrolling the sidelines with his clipboard was Duane Mann, the Warriors academy and pathways manager who played 29 games for the Kiwis and captained both the New Zealand and Tongan test teams.

Mann said the nines format allowed all the players to touch the ball regularly, rather than being out of sight in a 13-man game, while getting more space to run and having to show "effort to defend".

"Some kids may grab us just by speed and size.

"A lot of these guys we hear about through the zone competitions.

"The trial is about trying to step up as much as they can."

Any prospects spotlighted yesterday will join around 10 others from the other NYC trial held in Auckland last week to train with the current Under 20s squad and perhaps earn a contract.

"It's definitely easier for these boys - us coming to them rather than them coming to us," said Mann.