Auckland’s 2014 College Rugby League First XIII grand final has been confirmed as a curtain-raiser to the Vodafone Warriors’ 22nd-round NRL clash against the Cronulla Sharks at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday week (August 10).
St Paul’s College and Kelston Boys’ High School won their semi-finals on Wednesday, setting up a repeat of last year’s inaugural CRL decider.
On that occasion St Paul’s, boasting current Vodafone Junior Warriors Brad Abbey and Bunty Afoa, triumphed 28-12 in the build-up to the Vodafone Warriors’ NRL encounter with the Sharks.
The crowd of 15,209 day featured pupils from all 18 schools involved in the first College Rugby League First XIII Competition, jointly run by the Auckland Rugby League and the Vodafone Warriors.
The Vodafone Warriors distributed complimentary tickets to all participating schools last year and will do the same for this year’s grand final day.
Vodafone Warriors academy and pathways manager Duane Mann said having the CRL’s top two teams on show would add significantly to the game day experience.
“We have worked together with the ARL, College Sport and the schools and we’re thrilled the Vodafone Warriors have been able to secure the CRL Cup grand final at Mount Smart Stadium,” said Mann.
“It was a fantastic occasion last year and we know it will be a big day again on August 10. We urge the schools involved to turn out in numbers and ensure there’s a great atmosphere.
“As a club we are providing the 19 participating schools with tickets to the value of $10,000 free.”
The ARL’s assistant development manager Anaru Hudson said playing the grand final on the same day as the NRL and NYC fixtures was a tremendous boost for the CRL competition.
“Having the match as a curtain raiser to the Vodafone Warriors’ NYC and NRL teams gives secondary schools rugby league added quality and prestige,” he said.
The St Paul’s-Kelston showdown will be the first match on a ‘Super Sunday’ tripleheader bill kicking off at 12.10pm. It will be followed by the NYC encounter between the Vodafone Junior Warriors and Cronulla (1.45pm) with the home side set to boast a number of players involved in the CRL as recently as last year.
Besides Abbey and Afoa, Marata Niukore (Aorere College) and Nathaniel Roache (Mount Albert Grammar School) have been playing for the Vodafone Junior Warriors this season after appearing in the CRL last year.
Mattais Heimuli and Joseph Price are in line to make their NYC debuts against Canberra this Sunday; Price captained Otahuhu College in the CRL last year while Heimuli is still at Mount Albert Grammar School, having played in the competition last year and also captaining the side in its 12-16 semi-final loss to Kelston Boys’ High School on Wednesday (St Paul’s beat Manurewa High School 28-6 in the other semi-final).
Current Vodafone Warriors junior development players will also feature heavily for both CRL grand final teams – Amoni Tufui, Chris Sio and Stan Takula for St Paul’s and Shane Hannam, Zion Ioka and Eddie Wulf for Kelston Boys’ High School.
Mann said both the Vodafone Warriors and the ARL were keen to have more schools involved in the CRL competition.
“The Vodafone Warriors are absolutely committed to getting behind initiatives to foster development of the game and again this year have dedicated time, resource and expertise behind the NZRL, zone and district tournaments and camps up and down the country,” said Mann.
“The club has multiple pathways offering young players the chance to progress in the game.
“We’re again grateful to SKY Sport for including live coverage of the grand final. With us they share a common desire to support rugby league at all levels from the elite competitions to grass roots.”
The 19 schools involved in the CRL this year have been:
CRL Cup | St Paul’s College, Mount Albert Grammar School, Kelston Boys’ High School, Manurewa High School, Western Springs College, Otahuhu College.
CRL Plate | Aorere College, Southern Cross Campus, Papakura High School, Westlake Boys’ High School, Tangaroa College, Henderson High School.
CRL Bowl | Papatoetoe High School, Pakuranga College, Lynfield College, Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate, Mount Roskill Grammar School, James Cook High School, Auckland Seventh-Day Adventist High School.