While Covid-19 kept the Vodafone Warriors in Australia, the club’s future generation made the most of the opportunity to take their place when they had the thrill of playing on Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday.
A healthy crowd of Vodafone Warriors members and fans turned up to watch two matches involving Sky Sport Future Warriors players ahead of the club’s NRL clash against the Bulldogs being beamed in live on the big screen and in the Corporate Lounge.
Rugby league lovers had been hoping to pack Mount Smart for the NRL team's planned homecoming but instead they saw an impressive collection of under-15 and under-17 players showing off the immense talent the Vodafone Warriors have in their system.
“It was a great opportunity to see almost 80 young men play some quality football at our home ground,” said Vodafone Warriors pathways and development coach Tony Iro.
“The standard of play was generally excellent and allowed all players to test themselves against the best age group competition and do it in Vodafone Warriors colours.”
The first of the two games pitted a Sky Sport Future Warriors under-15 side against Samoa counterparts while the second was a combined affair involving Sky Sport Future Warriors under-17 players and others invited to trial.
“The under-15 game allowed us to trial a number of players who we would not usually see at this level,” said Iro.
“We had a number of rugby union boys play plus a number of boys invited in during the week to test their ability against a very good Samoan team.
“The under-17 trial was the first of a few the club will run in anticipation of potentially having a S G Ball Cup (under-18) team in season 2022. We have the making of a very good side if we get the opportunity to play in the competition next year.”
The Vodafone Warriors played in the renowned New South Wales Rugby League’s S G Ball Cup for the first time last season and made a strong impression before the Covid-19 outbreak forced its cancellation. At the time, they were lying third on the ladder just a point off the competition lead.
Starring for the side with eight tries in six games was hooker Taniela Otukolo, who made his NRL debut this season. Another 2021 NRL rookie from the 2020 S G Ball side was centre Viliami Vailea.