August 9th 2023
Preparations for New Zealand’s most significant grassroots events are now well underway, with a jam-packed calendar throughout September and October that is not to be missed. The next generation of rangatahi will look to make their mark in the rugby league world.
National Secondary Schools Tournament
Friday 1 – Sunday 3rd September
Bruce Pulman Park, Auckland
First up on the calendar, is the highly anticipated New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) National Secondary Schools tournament. 2022 saw this significant event in the rugby league calendar return after a three-year hiatus, with two new grades – the U15 Boys Carnival and the inaugural Girls Championship.
As schools from across the motu converge on Auckland’s Bruce Pulman Park, 2023 brings a fresh look for several tournament regulars. Teams have anticipated the tournament’s return and will be excited to test themselves against the best rugby league talent nationwide.
41 teams across all grades have been invited to attend this year’s tournament, which will span over three days, kicking off on Friday, 1st September, at Bruce Pulman Park. Schools have quailed through zonal and regional events or nomination.
National Men’s and Sky Sport Women’s Premiership
Every weekend from Saturday 2nd September – Sunday 1st October
Also kicking off in the first weekend of September, the National Men’s and Sky Sport Women’s Premiership competitions, playing over five weekends, across various host venues nationwide.
The Akarana men’s and women’s teams will look to defend their 2022 titles with the exciting introduction of both the Auckland Vulcans men and women, Otago Whalers men and Wellington Orcas women teams being promoted into the premiership for 2023.
The National Premiership sees the inclusion of the Auckland Vulcans for the first time in both the men’s and women’s competitions. Both teams won their respective National Championship tournaments in 2022, gaining long-sought-after promotion.
With the new promotion in the premiership, Otago has secured a world-class facility in Forsyth Barr Stadium to play their two home games, whilst the Wellington Orcas women’s team looks to make their mark in the women’s premiership after lifting their game in 2022.
National Men’s and Women’s Championship
Every weekend from Saturday 2 – Saturday 7th October
The National Men’s and Women’s Championship kicks off with Southland taking on Aoraki at Elles Road in Invercargill on Saturday, 2nd September, in the South Island Men’s Championship. The Championship matches will be played nationwide in a new format over six weekends. The Men’s and Women’s Championships will conclude on Saturday, 7th October, with the North and South Island Champions meeting to be crowned the National Championship winners and for their chance to gain promotion to the Premiership for 2024.
With last year’s tournament champions in both men’s and women’s grades now promoted to the Premiership, the remaining teams will battle it out to find new victors.
National Girls Youth Tournament
Sunday 24 – Tuesday 26th September
Owen Delaney Park, Taupo
Returning to Taupo, the National Girls Youth Tournament will see talented rugby league wāhine from throughout the country competing for their District and Zones over three days. The inaugural Girls Youth Tournament in 2022 had a spectacle ending with two narrow finals in both the 16s and 18s grades.
This tournament continues to enhance NZ’s female game, with Alexis Tauaneai completing her journey from the inaugural 2022 National Youth Tournament to becoming a part of the St. George Illawarra Dragons NRLW team. Additionally, Taleenza Nelson has secured a Development contract with the Cronulla Sharks. The 2023 tournament will undoubtedly feature wāhine looking to complete the same journey.
National Boys Youth Tournament
Wednesday 27 – Friday 29th September
Puketawhero Park, Rotorua
Closing off grassroots footy for September is the National Boys Youth Tournament, returning to Rotorua’s Puketawhero Park to be held over three days. This tournament will see the best young tama toa compete across the 16s and 18s grades from both Zone and Districts, including; Northland, Auckland, Akarana, Counties, Waikato, Hauraki, Bay of Plenty, Coastline, Mid Central, Wellington and South Island.
NZ 16s & 18s
Monday 23rd October
Bruce Pulman Park, Auckland
Rounding off the grassroots football calendar for the year are the NZ 16s and NZ 18s representative games, all to be played on Monday, 23rd October (Labour Day). These games will all be played at Auckland’s Bruce Pulman Park and consist of the best young talent across the motu. Many young players are selected for these New Zealand representative teams from the NZRL National Secondary Schools and Youth Tournaments.
Aotearoa Whaanui v Auckland Invitational (Girls)
Aotearoa Whaanui v Auckland Invitational (Boys)
The 16s age group will feature the Auckland Invitational versus the Aotearoa Whaanui for both boys and girls. The 16s Auckland teams will consist of players from the ARL competition, Region of Origin development programme, and representative teams that include; Akarana, Counties-Manukau, and Auckland. The Aotearoa Whaanui’ Rest of New Zealand’ squads will be selected from Zonal teams that consist of Northland, Upper Central, Mid Central, Wellington, and South Island.
New Zealand Schools v New Zealand Clubs (Girls)
New Zealand Schools v New Zealand Clubs (Boys)
For their 18s counterparts, the ‘Clubs vs Schools’ match-up returns, including a girl’s match after the highly successful inaugural game in 2022. NZRL General Manager of Football and High-Performance Motu Tony added;
“A plethora of young talent have found homes in NRL and NRLW clubs from the previous contests, showing a genuine pathway rangatahi can take towards the professional game.
We look forward to seeing more develop and take their game to the next level.”
NZRL will release broadcast and streaming information for all the upcoming rugby league action in due course; keep an eye out for more details over the coming weeks to ensure you don’t miss out.