While the Vodafone Warriors’ NRL operation has been based offshore out of necessity for the last two seasons, pathways and development work has been ongoing back at Mount Smart Stadium.
It comes into sharp focus when the club has its first and only home game day of the last two years on Sunday.
This was intended to be the Vodafone Warriors’ homecoming NRL match against the Bulldogs until Covid-19 developments forced its cancellation.
From the outset plans were in place for the game day programme to include a match involving emerging talent from the club’s Sky Sport Future Warriors system.
Now the day has been transformed into a showpiece for the Vodafone Warriors’ pathways programme with two games being played featuring Sky Sport Future Warriors invitation teams taking on a Samoa under-15 selection (1.05pm kick-off) and a Pasifika invitation side (2.20pm kick-off).
While the on-field product will advertise the footballing talent coming through the system on Sunday, Vodafone Warriors pathways and development coach Tony Iro and assistant coach Stacey Jones have also been involved in a three-way initiative designed to improving coaching at the key development level. Assisting them was Vodafone Warriors football ambassador Adam Blair.
Working alongside the New Zealand Rugby League and the Auckland Rugby League, they helped to run a hugely successful coaching course across two weekends. A total 22 coaches in the under-14 to under-18 men’s and women’s grades in Auckland attended.
The workshop focused on delivering fundamental skill and techniques to coaches involved in this age range with plans in place to have ongoing sessions with them as well as inviting another group due to being unable to accommodate all those interested in the first workshop.
Iro has also revealed the Vodafone Warriors have expanded their development system by introducing a rookie group for 30-35 boys in the under-13s and under-14s age range.
“The rookie group is an opportunity to introduce these young men to the experience of participating in an NRL development system,” he said.
“The players come in once a fortnight over eight weeks with the primary focus on fundamental skill, improving technique, mobility and injury prevention.
“The plan is if they are invited into our older groups they are already accustomed to the work we are doing here.”