Kaitaia is on Vodafone Warriors alert after the club’s NRL squad arrived in the Far North town today to kick off a three-day community visit.
Far North mayor John Carter hailed the Vodafone Warriors for making a trip, arguably the most significant the region has ever seen from a sports team.
"This is a really exciting opportunity for the Far North in an area where we have challenges," he said.
"What this means is that it gives the opportunity for our people to be inspired and to lift the whole community. We're so grateful the Warriors have come up to be with us.
"The highlight will be what the visit means to each individual child."
The Harvey Norman Community Warriors' visit began with some of the players and staff arriving at the local airport onboard a chartered Air New Zealand Air Force DC3 flight out of Ardmore, others flying to Kerikeri and transferring by bus to their destination and the rest making the long road trip from Auckland.
Led by new head coach Stephen Kearney, the playing group includes Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei, Jacob Lillyman, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Ex-Kiwi international Lyndsay Proctor and former MP Hone Harawira were among the welcoming party at a powhiri at Waimanoni Marae, the Vodafone Warriors’ home during their stay. For two nights, the players and coaching staff will be sleeping on the floor in the marae’s wharenui.
A recovery swim at Te Rangi Aniwaniwa School was followed by a hangi dinner before the Vodafone Warriors attended a mix and mingle event with dignitaries including Carter, Harawira, sponsors, MPs, local councilors and school principals.
The keynote speaker was acclaimed local doctor Lance O’Sullivan, named New Zealander of the Year in 2014, who impressed on the Vodafone Warriors the difference they would make to the young children when meeting them this week.
Among the features of Tuesday’s night’s interactive event with local dignitaries was a singing challenge laid down to the Vodafone Warriors’ Tongan and Samoan contingents. The Tongans, led by Vatuvei and Albert Vete, impressed with their performance.
On Wednesday as many as 1200 children from the region are due to join the Vodafone Warriors at a school day.