NRL stars cap­ti­vate lo­cals

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - SAMHEWAT

Hun­dreds of young, rugby league fa­nat­ics had the op­por­tu­nity of a life­time in Auck­land on Thurs­day night when they got to meet some of the big­gest names in the NRL.

Both the North Queens­land Cow­boys and Voda­fone War­riors trav­elled to Auck­land’s Mt Al­bert Rugby League Club as part of a pro­mo­tion for the Downer NRL Auck­land Nines - played over the week­end.

Once the teams were wel­comed with a tra­di­tional powhiri, fans were able to snap self­ies, get au­to­graphs, and have a chat with some of the he­roes of the game.

NRL stars Shaun John­son and Jonathan Thurston were the ob­vi­ous fan favourites, but Kiwi tal­ent Jason Tau­malolo and War­riors leg­end Ruben Wiki were also in­un­dated with photos and sig­na­ture re­quests.

Ryan Hoff­man, for­mer War­riors cap­tain, said it was an awe­some op­por­tu­nity to give back to the rugby league com­mu­nity.

‘‘You can see the ex­cite­ment and it’s great they are com­ing out to see us,’’ Hoff­man said.

‘‘They don’t have to do it, they choose to do it, so to have that sup­port is great.

‘‘I was a kid once, I was do­ing what these kids are do­ing so its al­ways good to give back to our young sup­port­ers.’’

For the Cow­boys’ Gavin Cooper, hav­ing Kiwi stars like Jason Tau­malolo in the team helped in­crease their sup­port with lo­cal fans.

‘‘Ev­ery­one comes up and says he’s their favourite player so hav­ing guys on the team like that is pretty spe­cial.

‘‘A lot of them call the Cow­boys their sec­ond team, there’s lots of War­riors jer­seys, but we’ll take that over here.’’

The Cow­boys won the Nines’ in­au­gu­ral tour­na­ment in 2014, and Cooper ad­mit­ted there was a lot of pres­sure on them to win it again this year.

‘‘Hav­ing a pretty big name side on pa­per, I’m not sure if it’s good or bad for us,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s a lit­tle bit of pres­sure but we’ll put that all on JT’s (Thurston’s) shoul­ders.’’

Hoff­man was equally as ex­cited for the tour­na­ment and said it was some­thing he al­ways put his hand up for when asked to play.

‘‘I’ve al­ways loved play­ing in it,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s an ex­cit­ing con­cept, and it’s a great ve­hi­cle to boost our great sport.’’

SAM HEWAT/FAIR­FAX NZ

War­riors star Shaun John­son had lines of fans wait­ing by his tent dur­ing his side’s visit to Mt Al­bert Rugby League Club.

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