One New Zealand Warriors CEO Cameron George has today announced the club’s intention to expand its pathways structure by fielding an unprecedented five teams from 2024 with a sixth planned for 2025.
The club has approached the New South Wales Rugby League about adding teams in the Jersey Flegg Cup (under-21) and Harold Matthews Cup (under-17) competitions next year alongside the existing NRL, New South Wales Cup (reserve grade) and SG Ball Cup (under-19) squads.
George also reaffirmed the club would apply to have a Warriors team back in the NRLW in 2025.
“This is the next major step forward in resetting the club after being away from home for three years,” said George.
“From having no development teams – just our NRL side – we’re now aiming to have a total of five teams next year and six from 2025.
“Historically it’s the biggest investment in development and pathways we’ve ever had. It also aligns perfectly with our strategic partnership with the Pasifika Aotearoa Collective.
“As well as this we will keep pushing to return to the NRLW in 2025. That’s critical for us.
“We are going back to where we always wanted to be, which is striving to become the best development club we can be.
“With this initiative in place it would help rugby league in New Zealand across the board, giving those running the game at grass roots level the incentive to work on increasing player numbers knowing there will be opportunities for elite players with the One New Zealand Warriors.”
Andrew McFadden, the club’s recruitment, pathways and development general manager, hailed the plan as a watershed moment in the One New Zealand Warriors’ history.
“We’ve never had a pathways structure which enables young New Zealand players to come all the way through a development system here,” he said.
“By having teams from under-17 level through under-19, under-21 and reserve grade and onto the NRL we would at last be able to give kids the opportunity they want right here at our club.
“This is the best news ever for local players and their families. Until now we’ve never been on an equal footing with other clubs in terms of pathways. If we can have teams in all these grades, we’ll have the chance to be on the same level.”
George said the One New Zealand Warriors was now working with the NSWRL and the NRL on their plans for the two new teams next year.
The approach comes at a time when the club’s SG Ball side has made a successful return to the competition after a three-year absence. The Adam Blair-coached team has beaten South Sydney 10-8 and Melbourne 56-18 – both on the road – and has its first home game against St George Illawarra at Pukekohe’s Navigation Homes Stadium on Sunday.