Ruben Wiki puts on the jersey for the Warriors for the 2017 NRL Auckalnd Nines. Mt Smart Stadium

After launching the highly successful Pasifika Youth Cup last month, the Vodafone Warriors have followed this up with the establishment of an expanded Ruben Wiki Shield competition.

Once again played at the under-16 and under-18 levels the competition, named in honour of the rugby league great, was introduced last year featuring teams from Akarana, Counties-Manukau and Samoa as well as the Vodafone Warriors.

This year it has been expanded to include representative teams from Wai-Coa-Bay (Waikato-Bay of Plenty), Northern Swords (Northland) and Auckland Vulcans with Samoa moving to the Pasifika Youth Cup. All the participating zone and district teams feature in the NZRL National Youth Competition played in September each year.

“We are very excited to have Wai-Coa-Bay, the Northern Swords and Auckland Vulcans joining the competition,” said Vodafone Warriors recruitment and development manager Tony Iro.

“As part of our engagement with the zones and districts, we received strong support and interest to be part of it.

“We believe it’s a good fit and it shows the demand for the competition going forward.

“There are so many positives; all zones get an opportunity to work with their top players at the start of the year and it creates an incentive for these players to work hard in the offseason. Instead of playing tag, touch or rugby union sevens it allows players to be engaged in rugby league with some great opportunities.”

Last year’s inaugural competition was highly successful with a number of players progressing to higher honours.

Vodafone Junior Warriors standoff Chanel Harris-Tavita was promoted to the NYC squad after stand-out performances going on to become the club’s NYC rookie of the year. There have been numerous other players who have since progressed to NYC squads for the 2017, both at the Vodafone Warriors and other clubs.  

Iro said once again Akarana and Counties Manukau and then the Auckland Vulcans will have first call on players including Vodafone Warriors-contracted players. All Vodafone Junior Warriors and development players will participate.

“From our perspective it allows for all our Vodafone Junior Warriors and development players to be engaged in a high-level competition which will feature a large majority of the top rugby league talent in the country,” he said.

“While it might not quite yet replicate an SG Ball competition it definitely is moving towards that.

“For our invitational team we have engaged with our scouts and will look to provide opportunities for a number of identified players from across the country, particularly from Mid Central, Wellington and South Island who don’t have teams.”   

The opening round this weekend begins with a blockbuster at Cornwall Park between Akarana and Counties-Manukau. The Vulcans travel to Whangarei and Vodafone Warriors Invitational head to Rotorua International Stadium to play Wai-Coa-Bay.

Following the five-week round-robin the two highest qualifiers will play-off in the grand final on Saturday, March 25.

 

Round 1 | Saturday, February 18

Akarana v Counties Manukau, Cornwall Park, Auckland

Under-16 | 11.00am

Under-18 | 1.00pm

Wai-Coa-Bay v Vodafone Warriors Invitational, Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua

Under-16 | 12.15pm

Under-18 | 1.30pm

Northern Swords v Auckland Vulcans, Takahiwai Rugby League Club, Whangarei

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

 

Round 2 | Saturday, February 25

Northern Swords v Vodafone Warriors Invitational, Portland Recreation Centre, Whangarei

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

Wai-Coa-Bay v Akarana, Hamilton

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

Counties-Manukau v Auckland Vulcans, Cornwall Park, Auckland

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

 

Round 3 | Saturday, March 4

Northland v Wai-coa-Bay, Cornwall Park, Auckland

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

Counties-Manukau v Vodafone Warriors Invitational, Cornwall Park, Auckland

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

Akarana v Auckland Vulcans, Cornwall Park, Auckland

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

 

Round 4 | Saturday, March 11

Akarana v Northland, Cornwall Park, Auckland

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

Auckland Vulcans v Vodafone Warriors Invitational, Cornwall Park, Auckland

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

Counties-Manukau v Wai-Coa-Bay, Cornwall Park, Auckland

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

 

Round 5 | Saturday, March 19

Counties-Manukau v Northland, Cornwall Park Auckland

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

Vodafone Warriors Invitational v Akarana, Cornwall Park Auckland

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

Wai-Coa-Bay v Auckland Vulcans (venue to be confirmed)

Under-16 | 1.00pm

Under-18 | 2.30pm

 

Finals | Saturday, March 26

Cornwall Park, Auckland

Under-16 Grand Final | 1.00pm

Under-18 Grand Final | 2.30pm