Historic First For Auckland League Ahead Of Inaugural National U20 Competition
For the first time since the introduction of the New Zealand Rugby League's zone structure in 2009, the Auckland Rugby League, Akarana Falcons and Counties Manukau Stingrays will work together to field Auckland representative teams.
The tri-party partnership will oversee two Auckland sides – called Auckland Blue and Auckland White – which will compete in the inaugural NZRL National 20 Competition kicking off on February 27, 2021.
Auckland Rugby League CEO Greg Whaiapu said the three bodies working together presents a big opportunity in what is a crucial age group for the game.
"A lack of participation numbers has meant there hasn't been an U20 men's club grade held in Auckland since 2017," Whaiapu said.
"What we have now in working together with a common vision and goal is an opportunity to attract players into an U20 Auckland club competition once again.
"This move is for the betterment of the game in Auckland and from our point of view is really exciting."
The two Auckland teams will be joined in the month-long competition by Northland, Wai-Coa-Bay (Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hauraki and Coastline), Lower North Island and the South Island.
Counties Manukau Stingrays general manager Kasey King said the prospect of participating in the U20 competition would give Auckland players something to aim for in their own age group.
"I think it’s a great initiative and certainly something that is needed to give our young players something to aspire to, especially now that the New Zealand Warriors don’t have a team in an U20s competition," King said.
"Collaboration is the way forward and through this we are working collectively towards a common goal of having, in this instance, young men staying in our game."
Akarana Falcons community development officer Evelyn Brooker said all three parties shared a vision for improving the game and boosting clubs.
"It’s exciting times to have the district and the zones working together for the first time and hopefully through this we can get some of these players back into clubs, because there is a need to lift up the U19/20 grades," Brooker said.
"The idea is that through this we can achieve that in Auckland and throughout the rest of the country."
An open trial for the two teams will be held on January 23 (click here to register), with further information to follow.
To be eligible to trial and be available for selection players must have turned 17 before December 31, 2020 and be under the age of 20 as at January 1, 2021.