Junior Kiwis at Mount Smart
The Junior Kiwis were getting familiarised with their game-day surroundings today as they stepped up their preparation for Saturday's one-off international against the Junior Kangaroos at Mount Smart Stadium (7.00pm kick off; tickets for adults $5.00; children 12 and under free).
In support of the occasion, the Vodafone Warriors have made their facilities - including the NRL team's dressing rooms - available to the team both ahead of the contest and on game day itself.
While the environment is familiar to NYC premiership-winning Vodafone Junior Warriors Sam Lisone and Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, it was all new for their team-mates in thie year's Junior Kiwis.
Captain and Wests Tigers hooker Manaia Cherrington plus Parramatta halfback Zach Dockar-Clay were hugely impressed with the Vodafone Warriors' set-up as were the rest of ther players.
They were equally excited about playing at Mount Smart Stadium, not just home base for the Vodafone Warriors but also New Zealand rugby league's spiritual home.
Dockar-Clay has previous experience playing at the venue, savouring the Eels' last-minute 22-19 NYC win over the Vodafone Junior Warriors in July (although he was on the receiving end when the Eels lost in dramatic fashion last month to enable the Vodafone Junior Warriors to reach this year's NYC grand final).
For Cherrington playing at Mount Smart Stadium will be all new. The Tigers met the Vodafone Warriors in Wellington in their only clash this year while the two clubs also met just once last season (at Leichhardt Oval). Cherrington said he's expecting about 50 members of his wider family to travel from the Bay of Islands for Saturday's match.
The players had a taste of the venue with an opposed training session against the Akarana Falcons tonight; the run not only tuning up the Junior Kiwis but also warming the Falcons up for the NZRL National Premiership final against the Counties Manukau Stingrays in Saturday's curtain-raiser (5.00pm kick-off).