NRL clash to spark re­vival

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

When Sun­day’s NRL Sum­mer Smash trial match be­tween the NZ War­riors and Gold Coast Ti­tans kicks off at CET Arena, there will be scores of young fans join­ing them on the park.

The third of three ‘‘sta­di­um­fill­ing’’ events fol­low­ing the Nitro Cir­cus and Su­per­stock Teams chal­lenge, the Sum­mer Smash week­end also sees the launch of a new ju­nior rugby league devel­op­ment pro­gramme.

The week­end will cul­mi­nate when Keen Kiwi Min­i­mod teams play dur­ing the half-time break in the cur­tain-raiser be­tween the Royal New Zealand Air Force and New Zealand Army, and dur­ing the War­riors - Ti­tans clash.

Con­cerned that there were no path­ways to progress ju­nior play­ers into youth and premier grades, the for­mer se­nior coach for the Lin­ton Co­bras and ju­nior coach for Kia Ora ju­niors, Lawrence Erihe, has been re­build­ing a ju­nior player devel­op­ment pro- gramme from the ground up.

‘‘I don’t think there’s been any­thing here for ju­nior grades for the last 20 years, so we’re putting it back to­gether,’’ Erihe said.

Sun­day’s 10-minute Min­i­mod games in front of the NRL crowd was to show­case six cen­tral zone clubs.

‘‘We’ve cre­ated a 12-week pro­gramme for Manawatu ju­nior, youth and se­nior league that runs from March 19 to June 25 and will fin­ish off with a ju­nior 9s tour­na­ment. In 2018 we hope to be able to make that a sus­tain­able com­pe­ti­tion. At this point all I am try­ing to do is start it.’’

Satur­day’s club reg­is­tra­tion day at CET Arena will co­in­cide with the cap­tain’s runs at 11am for the War­riors and 2pm for the Ti­tans.

The young­sters will have the op­por­tu­nity to meet stars from both teams, as well as take part in rounds of group games.

‘‘For me, it’s about pro­vid­ing an al­ter­na­tive and get­ting young kids to par­tic­i­pate in a sport they only see on TV. It’s about giv­ing them a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ Erihe said. ’’At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids.’’

Brax­ton Wil­son-Clune, 11, from the Kia Ora War­riors and Takiora Hono­tapu, 9, from Tainui, were both look­ing for­ward to hope­fully meet­ing NZ War­riors’ favourite Shaun John­son.

While Brax­ton reck­ons the War­riors will win Sun­day’s game, Takiora was pick­ing the Ti­tans be­cause ‘‘They’re bet­ter’’.

ROBERT KITCHIN

Spin­ning the ball at Corona­tion Park are ju­nior rugby league play­ers (from left) Brax­ton Wil­son-Clune 11, Takiora Hono­tapu 9, Cedric Uri-Erihe 6, and Shay Uri-Erihe 10.

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