Game day at Mount Smart Stadium charts new territory on Sunday when the Vodafone Warriors create history by fielding men’s and women’s sides in the new-look NRL Touch Premiership.
For the first time in the club’s history, a total of five Vodafone Warriors teams will be in action with the NRL, Canterbury Cup and Jersey Flegg Cup sides also featuring on a packed programme.
In the touch contests, the Vodafone Warriors take on fellow debutants the Sydney Roosters as a result of the competition being expanded to eight teams this year. The women’s contest begins at 12.05pm while the men kick off at 12.45pm.
The Vodafone Warriors and Touch New Zealand have joined forces in the trailblazing initiative.
“This is huge for Touch New Zealand and for us in reaching this point,” said Vodafone Warriors chief executive Cameron George.
“It’s going to be fantastic seeing our club field five of teams on the same game day programme this Sunday. Along with our NRL Women’s Premiership team, we’re now able to offer so many pathways for players.”
Touch New Zealand general manager sport operations Micheal King said the involvement in the NRL Touch Premiership represented a big opportunity for the sport in New Zealand.
“There is an excitement and huge buzz across our touch community about playing in the NRL and especially the link to the Vodafone Warriors’ brand,” he said.
“We are excited about the exposure we will get to the wider oval ball playing community. “Many touchies are avid Vodafone Warriors fans so we see our involvement in the NRL Touch Premiership under the club’s banner as a crucial relationship.
“Having the opportunity to rub shoulders with the organisation and learn from what they do can only be good for our amateur sport.
“Who knows what the future holds for touch? We have passionate and committed players, coaches and volunteers in our space who have always kept the faith.”
Vodafone Warriors men’s coach James Went said the squad had gathered for training sessions in Auckland over the past five weekends.
He said most of the players came from rugby league or rugby union backgrounds while he noted he had coached Vodafone Warriors rookie NRL centre Patrick Herbert in touch when he was a St Kentigern College pupil.
Went’s assistant coach is Aaron Nootai, who has strong links with both touch and rugby league. He has previously represented the Vodafone Warriors in the New South Wales Cup (now the Canterbury Cup) and has also played for the Cook Islands.
The two Vodafone Warriors teams will assemble at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday afternoon for their final training sessions before taking on the Roosters on Sunday.
NRL TOUCH PREMIERHIP
VODAFONE WARRIORS | MEN’S SQUAD
Te Tuhi Muir-Tuuta
Coach | James Went
Assistant coach | Aaron Nootai
VODAFONE WARRIORS | WOMEN’S SQUAD
Coach | Jean Marsh
Assistant coach | Lance Flavell