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Warriors supporting academy in Dunedin

This story was first published in the Otago Daily Times:

The Warriors are about to establish a presence in Dunedin and that is not clickbait.

Southern Zone Rugby League will launch an academy in April which will operate in association with the One New Zealand Warriors.

It will be the fourth satellite academy the NRL club has dotted around the country.

To celebrate its imminent launch, Warriors heavyweights Andrew McFadden, Stacey Jones and Cameron George made their way south to view the facilities and touch base with Southern Zone Rugby League general manager Liam Turner, who has driven the project.

Turner told the Otago Daily Times the academy would be based at the Otago Polytechnic gym — there will also be hubs in Invercargill, Timaru and Greymouth to support any players selected from those areas — and would have a strength and conditioning focus.

Nathan Jones has been appointed head trainer.

The initial crop of around 10 players would be selected from the talent on display at the South Island 9s tournament in Christchurch this weekend.

‘‘We are looking to start small and build from there,’’ Turner said.

‘‘This is something that has been in the pipeline because of the support of the Warriors and the relationship we’ve been able to build.’’

Turner is hopeful the academy will offer aspiring rugby league players a visible pathway which will help promote and develop the game.

Rugby Union has a stronger hold on the community in Otago, but league is making its own moves.

Turner is hopeful more players like Kairus Booth, the Balclutha teenager who signed with the Warriors under-17 side late last year, will emerge.

Former Warriors coach McFadden, who now leads the Warriors’ recruitment and development pathway programmes, said the club’s role was to lean support and supply some resources. It was about expanding their reach.

‘‘The big thing that the programme will provide is we will get a look at these kids and we will understand where they are at,’’ he said.

‘‘If they are ready, they will get opportunities.’’

McFadden is confident there is enough talent in the region to justify the investment.

Warriors chief executive George said the club’s ‘‘whole philosophy is connecting with the community around the country’’ and supporting the academy dovetailed nicely with those aims.

‘‘Cappy [McFadden] has done a great job setting up the satellite academies and Liam has been instrumental down here,’’ George said.

‘‘He has been a really good advocate for Southern Zone and the Warriors are really keen to be part of that journey.’

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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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