Several players contracted to the Vodafone Warriors will be on show for the New Zealand Secondary Schools in tomorrow's encounter with New South Wales Combined Schools at Westlake Boys' High School on Auckland's North Shore (3.30pm kick-off).
The local side gathered over the weekend for the one-off encounter.
“Spirits are high, even though the weather is not that flash,” said New Zealand coach Andrew Auimatagi.
“We’ve got a good group of guys, ready to work for each other.”
Auimatagi’s school – St Thomas of Canterbury College – did not contest this month’s NZRL National Secondary Schools' Tournament, so he has been able to bring a strictly neutral eye to the camp.
“I was impressed with the talent at that tournament and the boys in our team definitely stood out,” he says.
“I’m looking forward to seeing them in action this week.
“It’s a big thing for them to wear the silver fern on their chest and they’ve stepped up to the mark so far. It’s a good opportunity for them to put themselves out there and be watched by a big crowd on the day.
“For me, personally, it’s a huge honour to coach at this level and I’m looking forward to it.”
Auimatagi is also under no illusions what his players will be up against. Their state opposition will be brimming with talent and determined not to slip up against the locals.
“They’re going to be pretty well drilled and doing all the little things really well,” he says.
“We’ll need to match that, plus a bit more.
“We’ve got size and strength, so we’ll be looking to play them in the middle third of the park and build pressure. They won’t like the weather much either.”
New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Phil Holden is particularly excited to stage the game at Westlake Boys' High School, where the rugby league programme is in its infancy, but has already achieved a top-10 finish at the national tournament.
“WBHS has a proud tradition in a wide range of sports, but is a relative newcomer to rugby league,” says Holden.
“We hope its valued support will show other schools what can be achieved in our code.”
NZ SECONDARY SCHOOLS v NSW COMBINED HIGH SCHOOLS
Tuesday, September 23, 3.30pm
Westlake Boys' High School, Auckland
New Zealand Secondary Schools: Tise Aivalu (Manurewa HS), Erin Clark (Manurewa HS), Beau Cordtz (St Paul's College), Zion Ioka (Kelston BHS), Charlie Kaipati (Kelston BHS), Nic Lui-toso (Kelston BHS), James Mafi (Kelston BHS), Tyler Mohi (Aorere College), Brandon Nangaiti (Otahuhu College), Junior Pauga (Kelston BHS), Reuben Porter (Mt Albert Grammar), Michael Saili-Motu (Manurewa HS), Peter Scanlan (Keltson BHS), Lewis Soosemea (Aorere College), Cyrus Timo-Latu (Aranui HS), Scott Tofa-Timoteo (St Paul's College), Viliami Tosi (Rotorua BHS), David Tuisane (Manurewa HS), Eddie Wulf (Kelston BHS).
Coach: Andrew Auimatagi (St Thomas of Canterbury College).
Assistant coach: Dave McDermott (Kelston Boys' High School).
Manager: Billy Maea (Tokoroa High School).
NSW Combined High Schools: Jarred Anderson (Hunter Sports High), Tye Barry (Farrer Memorial High), Daniel Brown (The Hills Sports High), Jye Challenor (Westfields Sports High), Kiah Cooper (Hunter Sports High), Cayne Dockar-Clay (The Hills Sports High), Kieran Hayman (The Hills Sports High), Cameron King (Westfields Sports High), Ryan King (Figtree High), Kurtis Langdon (Hunter River High), Corey Manicaros (Farrer Memorial High), Luke Marks (Hunter Sports High), Liam Martin (West Wyalong High), Zac Masters (Tumut High), Jack Murchie (Ulladulla High), Curtis Scott (Endeavour Sports High), Marvin Slavin (The Hills Sports High), Harry Van Dartel (Dubbo College Senior Campus).
Coach: Tony Tilburg (Blayney High).
Manager: Rod McAnulty (Erskine Park High)
Trainer: Tony Wilson (Gilgandra High).
Referee: Chris McMillan.