The Vodafone Warriors’ all-in commitment to the just-launched Sky Sport Future Warriors programme is quickly reaping rewards.
Even before last week’s official announcement, the partnership had rolled into gear with the inaugural Sky Sport Future Warriors camp in late December.
More than 50 players from around the country were split into two camps, one for players in the under-14 bracket and the other for under-15s. The players were given the opportunity to work with various members of the club’s full-time staff in a programme which provided:
- Engagement with NRL players including a player joining the youngsters for on-field drills and giving them advise in workshops
- Introduction to in-depth analysis with Vodafone Warriors NRL analysts
- Introduction to physical performance and testing
- Skills session with full-time club staff
Coupled with the introduction of the S G Ball Cup (under-18) side this season, the Vodafone Warriors plan to take Sky Sport Future Warriors squads from different age groups to Australia to play against other NRL clubs.
In the coming weeks, a number of other Sky Sport Future Warriors initiatives will be revealed, all aimed at providing quality rugby league experiences.
Greg Boulous, who spent last year as the club’s Jersey Flegg Cup under-20s coach, was appointed GM Future Warriors.
“After a year with the club I am really enthusiastic about the potential of
our junior base and I’m ecstatic having Sky Sport on hand to support us,” he said.
“Their support allows us to deliver an unparalleled programme for young talented players in our pathway and engage with youth from around the country.
“It also enables us to invest in our juniors and ultimately long-term it will help us with the retention of young players and their development into NRL players.”
On the back of the Sky Sport announcement, the Vodafone Warriors took under-16 and under-18 squads to Cambridge where they joined forces with the New Zealand Rugby League at a talent development programme camp. It featured workshops and trial matches for both age groups.
Recently retired former Kiwi, Newcastle Knights and Melbourne Storm hooker Slade Griffin was signed late last year to fill the critical role of Sky Sport Future Warriors coach. He guided the under-16 team in the trial in Cambridge.
“Coming through the system on the West Coast I left New Zealand at a young age but was excited to come back home and be part of the new Sky Sport Future Warriors programme,” he said.
“It was really pleasing to see a good contingent of regional players at both camps and then line up for our playing squads in the trials.
“In terms of our on-field performance it took us until the second quarter to get into the game and then we saw some really good passages of football from our squad.
“Execution let us down and we were on the back of a few penalties which let the NZRL selection back into the game but overall it was a great learning opportunity for all I and look forward to working with boys again.
“I was also impressed with the quality of the NZRL development team and, in particular, a couple of boys who are part of our programme as well.”
UNDER-16S TRIAL | CAMBRIDGE
Sky Sport Future Warriors 16s 28 (M Logopati, S Helusima, D Lotaki, W Piliu, B Peni, F Manuleleua, P Latuila tries).
NZRL Development Selection 24 (D Hurrell-Jones 2, T Fotu, J Harris, S Vakadula, C Faatili).
SKY SPORT FUTURE WARRIORS 16s
William Piliu (Manurewa Marlins, St Paul’s College)
Paula Latuila (Glenora Bears, Kelston Boys’ High School)
Taniela Mapusua-Lotaki (Manurewa Marlins, Wesley College)
Reupena Fialele (Halswell Hornets, South Island Maile, St Thomas of Canterbury)
Matthew Logopati (Linwood Keas, South Island Maile, St Thomas of Canterbury)
Francis Manuleleua (Papatoetoe Panthers, King’s College)
Xavier Tito-Harris (Glenora Bears, Kelston Boys’ High School)
Ben Peni (Papatoetoe Panthers, Edgewater College)
Demitric Sifakula (Otahuhu Leopards, De La Salle College)
Tamakaimoana Whareaorere (Te Arawa Maori RL, Rotorua Boys’ High School)
Jarome Falemoe (Otahuhu Leopards, Southern Cross Campus)
Devante Mihinui (Glenora Bears, Waipareira)
Jacob Laban (Randwick Kingfishers, Awa, St Bernard’s College)
Dorian Lotaki (Manurewa Marlins, Wesley College)
John-Lees Faulkner (Otumoetai Eels, Tauranga Boys’ College)
Henry Teutau (Glenora Bears, Dilworth School)
Jasiah Takerei-Nielson (Glenora Bears, Kelston Boys’ High School)
Elijah Leaumoana (Otahuhu Leopards, Southern Cross Campus)
Paul Afoa (Te Atatu Roosters)
Waikare Ratima (Glenora Bears, Kelston Boys’ High School)
Selu Halasima (Mangere East Hawks, Southern Cross Campus)
Te Waaka Popata-Henare (Counties-Manukau Maori, Mt Albert Grammar School)
Axel Fine-Sietu (Glenora Bears, Hakula Tonga)
Connah Pihema (Manurewa Marlins, Counties-Manukau Maori)
In the under-18 trial, the Vodafone Warriors were impressive in beating the NZRL selection 42-16.