The future looks
promising for the Vodafone Warriors following a high-quality under-16 game between the Auckland Vulcans the Future Warriors played as the curtain-raiser to the recent NRL match between the Vodafone Warriors and North Queensland Cowboys.
Despite facing a very strong Auckland line-up, the Future Warriors won 30 to 10 in the ground-breaking clash.
The Future Warriors side had a strong regional make-up with most of the players selected being involved in the Future Warriors Programme which is focused on engaging, inspiring and developing young rugby league talent across the country.
Vodafone Warriors general manager football Brian Smith praised the initiative and highlighted its potential.
"It was an exciting match with New Zealand's best up-and-coming players on display,” he said.
“To play on Mount Smart Stadium before our NRL side was a special experience and we received resounding positive feedback from players and families from both sides
“It was also pleasing to see the Future Warriors players rising to another level when they put that Vodafone Warriors jersey on.”
Smith said it was challenge to pick out a player of the day but Future Warriors captain Francis Manuleleua’s performance was hard to ignore and Auckland’s Salesi Ataata also stood out.
“It was hard to single out one player among some great performers but Francis showed his class,” said Smith.
“It is extra special considering he is still only 14 years of age while big Salesi showed his potential on the edge for Auckland ”
Future Warriors standoff Manuleleua, who is the younger brother of former Junior Kiwi Sam Manuleleua, recently signed with the club after joining the club’s Academy programme as a 13-year-old. Auckland’s Salesi Ataata, a tall edge player, joined the club late last year.
The Future Warriors, under the tutelage of co-coaches Moehewa Armstrong and Tusa Lafaele, started the game strongly with an early try to Christchurch’s Ethan Faitaua and continued to dominate the first half with back-to-back tries to Whetu King-Taufa (Gisborne), Tamiro Armstrong (Rotorua) and Manuleleua (Papatoetoe).
The second stanza saw the Vulcans come back, led by Vodafone Warriors Academy forwards Heneli Luani and Paaua Abbott-Papuni, who both hard strong games. Auckland’s Luani crossed for a try before Kavan Thompson-Campbell scored to make a game of it with 20 minutes to play.
Down 10-26, the Vulcans were applying plenty of pressure but couldn’t find a way through and eventually the Future Warriors scored via Kyson Kingi to seal the result.
Future Warriors programme manager Jordan Friend said the priority was delivering a high-quality experience but was pleasantly surprised with the dominant performance by the Future Warriors.
“Auckland named a very strong side with many players who are part of our Academy programme,” he said.
“Although the Future Warriors ended up with a convincing win we were pleased with all of our players’ individual performances.
“The Future Warriors showed how much talent and potential exists around the country. Hopefully this inspires others and offers another pathway for these players.”
Friend said he hoped the game would become a permanent fixture on the New Zealand rugby league calendar.
At Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Future Warriors 16s 30 (Francis Manuleleua 2, Ethan Faitaua, Whetu King-Taufa, Tamiro Armstrong, Kyson Kingi tries; Francis Manuleleua 3 conversions.
Auckland Vulcans 16s 10 (Heneli Luani, Kavan Thompson-Campbell tries; Keano Kini conversion).
|Pikiao/Bay Of Plenty/Auckland Grammar School
|Kerikeri/Hato Petera-Westlake Boys’ High School)
|Waitara/Mid-Central Vipers/Taranaki Maori
|Takahiwai/Northern Swords/Whangarei Boys’ High School
|Francis Manuleleua (c)
|Papatoetoe/Counties-Manukau Stingrays/King’s College
|Linwood/South Island Scorpions/Shirley Boys’ High School
|Te Atatu/Akarana Falcons/Auckland Maori/Kelston Boys’ High School
|Tairawhiti/Gisborne Boys’ High School
|Pakuranga/ Counties-Manukau Stingrays/Tuhoe
|Ngongotaha/Bay Of Plenty/Hato Petera-Westlake Boys’ High School/Tuhoe
|Marist/ Akarana Falcons
|Pakuranga/Counties Stingrays/Wesley College
|Pakuranga/St Kentigern College
|Otumoetai/Coastlines/Tauranga Boys’ College/Tairawhiti
|Celebration Eagles/Christchurch Boys’ High School
|Fahmy Jerusalem Toilalo