The Vodafone Warriors have reached out to Tonga’s rugby league community by providing training shirts and footballs as well as facilitating a two-day development camp for elite young players.
Vodafone Warriors recruitment and development manager Tony Iro along with community relations manager Petrece Kesha joined forces with the Inventus player management company on a visit to the kingdom earlier this month.
A total of 65 players were invited from schools across Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa to take part in a camp built around physical testing and skill development plus two trials games on the second day.
With support from Inventus management and local coaches, Iro ran the early sessions which focused on fundamental skills and tackle technique. The local coaches included Tevita Vaikona, the former Tonga rugby league international who had a long professional career with Hull FC and the Bradford Bulls in the English Super League. He was able to offer the benefit of his knowledge and experience to the group.
Thanks to the generosity of local football authorities, the players stayed overnight at FIFA headquarters and were able to use the facilities on offer.
On the second day of the camp the players were split into two under-16 teams and two under-18 teams in preparation for their trials.
Courtesy of Vodafone Warriors sponsor Canterbury of New Zealand, the teams were presented with training shirts and footballs, a magnificent gesture from Canterbury which was hugely appreciated by the players.
After more skill work, a light lunch and an opportunity to rest, the under-16s began their game in hot, humid conditions. For a number of the boys it was their first experience playing rugby league but it wasn’t evident from the skills on display; the football was fast and tough.
The under-18 players brought a whole new level of physicality to their game and their display of skill and tough tackling was enjoyable to watch. Two players were chosen as the man of the match in their respective age groups – Roger Tangi in the under-16s and Sione Tongitea in the under-18s.
The players will continue to train every week as a group under the guidance of Vaikona and other local coaches.
After a restful Sabbath day, Vodafone Warriors and Inventus staff visited Tonga High School, which Vodafone Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell attended. A presentation of footballs and a set of jerseys was warmly applauded and the whole school sang a song in a show of their appreciation to Konrad and the Vodafone Warriors.
The visiting group also visited Solomone Kata’s old school where the rugby academy was presented with some footballs while Iro addressed the pupils on how they could give themselves the best opportunity to become a professional athlete.