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Former Kiwis and NRL premiership winners Adam Blair and Slade Griffin have today been named as head coaches of the Vodafone Warriors’ two flagship pathways teams which will re-enter the New South Wales Cup and S G Ball Cup competitions next year.

In confirming the return to the competitions after a Covid-enforced absence over the last three seasons, Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George said current NRL assistant coach Griffin will guide the New South Wales Cup side while Blair will step into the S G Ball Cup role after working as a coach in the club’s Sky Sport Future Warriors programme.

“In Slade and Adam we have two talented emerging coaches who have already made a huge contribution to the club,” said George.

“With the Vodafone Warriors at last coming home after being in Australia for the past three seasons, they’re an ideal fit as we look to re-launch these pathways teams and revive the model we had pre-Covid to support our NRL side.

“Through their time with us, Slade and Adam have a real understanding and knowledge of what the Vodafone Warriors stand for and what we are striving to achieve in developing our players for both the present and the future.

“While we will be back in the New South Wales Cup and S G Ball Cup next year, we are also committed to working with all parties in New Zealand to build the women’s game. To that end we will be applying to have our Warriors team back in the NRLW in 2025.

“Our owner Mark Robinson is passionate about having the best pathways possible and these teams are vital not just for our club but also for rugby league in New Zealand.”

Griffin (31), a grand final winner with Melbourne in 2017, moved into coaching when he was forced into premature retirement by another knee injury soon after his Kiwi debut against England in Denver in 2018.

Initially working with the Newcastle Knights, he was appointed as Sky Sport Future Warriors coach in late 2019 and was due to guide the club’s NRLW side in 2020 only for border issues to force a late change. He joined the NRL coaching staff as a transition coach for the 2021 season.

Blair (36) finished his 15-season NRL career with 331 appearances in 2020 while he finished his Kiwi career with 51 Tests in 2019, only the second New Zealander to reach the 50 mark.

Since then he has fuelled his desire to coach by working with young players in the Sky Sport Future Warriors system while he is also a Vodafone Warriors ambassador.

The club’s first foray into the renowned S G Ball Cup in 2020 began impressively but the competition was cancelled in March along with the New South Wales Cup.

While there have been challenges since 2020, George says the club has still made significant progress in development.

He points to the large number of players coming through the club’s programme:

  • Several contracted juniors have been based in Australia where they have been playing for feeder the Redcliffe Dolphins in Queensland competitions.
  • More than 80 players are coming through the club’s Sky Sport Future Warriors programme.  

“We have made a greater investment into this area than ever before over the last few years despite Covid’s impact and our investment will step up significantly in the coming years,” said George.

“Despite operating in a difficult climate with no competitions at our disposal, Athens Henare, Tony Iro and Grant Pocklington have been doing a fantastic job with our development.

“They’ve come up with a number of innovative ways to give our young players experience.”

These included running a preseason programme from November through to February, entering a side in the World Schools Rugby Sevens, running coaching and player development days throughout the country, supporting the Auckland Rugby League’s Dean Bell Cup (under-18) and Shaun Johnson Shield (under-16) competitions, having players involved in an under-16 and under-18 North Island tour and putting on a South Island coaching and player development day.

A Sky Sport Future Warriors selection played the Wests Tigers Cubs in the curtain raiser to the Vodafone Warriors v Wests Tigers NRL match on July 3 and under-15 and under-18 teams had matches against Bay of Plenty sides in Rotorua last month.

More matches and trials are planned including a growing focus on players in the under-14 age group.

SLADE GRIFFIN

 
Born January 17, 1991
Birthplace Glen Innes, New South Wales
Coaching career  
  Sky Sport Future Warriors coach 2019-2020
Vodafone Warriors NRL transition coach 2021-2022
Vodafone Warriors assistant coach 2022
Playing career  
Position Hooker
Junior club Cobden-Kohinoor Keas, Greymouth  
NRL clubs Melbourne 2013-2017
Newcastle 2018
NRL debut Melbourne v St George Illawarra, AAMI Park, Melbourne, March 10, 2013 (Round 1)
NRL career  41 appearances 2013-2018
    Melbourne 25 appearances 2013-2017
    Newcastle 16 appearances 2018
NRL points 8 (2 tries)
Representative 1 Test for Kiwis 2018

ADAM BLAIR

 
Born March 20, 1986
Birthplace Whangarei, NZ
Coaching career  
  Sky Sport Future Warriors assistant coach 2020-2021
Māori All Stars assistant coach 2023
Playing career  
Position Prop/second row/loose forward
Junior club Northland Carvers
NRL debut Melbourne v Wests Tigers, Leichhardt Oval, Sydney, April 2, 2006 (Round 4)
Vodafone Warriors No 223
NRL career 331 appearances 2006-2020
   Melbourne 121 appearances 2006-2011
   Wests Tigers 71 appearances 2012-2014
   Brisbane Broncos 74 appearances 2015-2017
   Vodafone Warriors 65 appearances 2018-2020
NRL points 56 (14 tries)
Representative 51 Tests for Kiwis 2006-2019, Māori All Stars 2019-2020, NRL All Stars 2010
Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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