As seen on

Ngā Puna Wai was a hotbed of rugby league education and development for five consecutive days last week as the most significant event of Canterbury Rugby League’s partnership with NRL club Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs to date unfolded.

Led by Craig Wilson (Pathways and Development), Fifita Hala (Recruitment) and Adam Hartigan (General Manager – Pathways), the Bulldogs delivered three coach upskilling sessions and two days of skill development for junior players.

“The feedback’s been really good – it’s only in its infancy, but the first steps have been really positive, the coaches are great and we want to give them access to as much information, video, skills and drills, and support,” Wilson said.

“We’re very lucky in that we’ve got a good league club behind us and a couple of guys who are very passionate about the development of rugby league in Phil Gould and Adam Hartigan.

“We’ve been discussing it for 12 or 18 months how we can benefit this area, but it’s an area rich in rugby league talent, going back to the Brent Todds, and [more recently] Jordan Riki, Slade Griffin, Griffin Neame.

“We’re just hoping that if we can assist and develop the game here, there will be more to come.

“We’re committed for the next two years and hopefully that will form a catalyst for more guys to come through the system and play in the NRL, not just at the Bulldogs but at other clubs.”

Wednesday’s initial seminar was held for national level and pathways coaches, Thursday’s session was for youth club and 13s/14s representative coaches, and on Friday, senior club coaches and 15s grade coaches and older got their opportunity.

On Saturday afternoon, around 100 juniors from the 13s and 14s grades experienced a skill development training day at Ngā Puna Wai. The following day roughly the same number of 15s-18s boys and 15s-23s girls had the same invaluable chance.

“They focused on rugby league’s fundamentals and the Bulldogs’ big thing was effort, so we just wanted everyone listening and putting their best foot forward,” Canterbury Rugby League Director of Football Jamie Lester enthused.

“There were lots of smiling faces and prizes given out by the Bulldogs to players who really showed that effort they were looking for.

“Sunday’s session saw the players split into backs and forwards, so the training was a bit more position specific. Our coaches had been learning the Bulldogs during the week, too, so they were instilling some of the stuff they had learned.

“Both days were mixed gender – that is part of the Bulldogs’ values, that everyone is treated as equals.”

Wilson provided some further insight into the ethos behind the Bulldogs’ methods.

“It’s not so much about the sporting element – because they can learn the skill anywhere – it’s about the little things: the attention to detail, how you approach your training, the preparation you need to do,” Wilson explains.

“Eighty percent of going to that next level is learning and knowing how to train, and perseverance. If they can do that, they get into the mindset of being able to train well … and when you have to perform those skills under pressure and at speed, they become competent and that builds confidence, which builds their game and allows them to grow and develop.

“The first thing that fails under pressure or fatigue [in a game] will be their skill level, so it’s a fine line. Teaching these kids to listen and that discipline doing drills, once they pick that habit up, that’s something they have for the rest of their lives – in footy and in general.”

Lester praised the Bulldogs’ dedication to the club’s burgeoning development and pathways relationship with CRL, formally announced in July.

“The big thing for Canterbury Rugby League was being able to showcase that partnership,” Lester said.

“To be able to have the Bulldogs here for five days just shows the commitment they’re willing to put in. It’s not their first visit either – this is the third time they’ve been over this year. They’re really putting the time and energy into bringing our youth through.

“It was a great opportunity for our community, from a coach and player perspective, to get involved and learn and grow.”

As CRL CEO Malcolm highlights, the Bulldogs’ activities on this trip have not been limited to the Canterbury region.

“We are excited and grateful for the Bulldogs investing their time in being in Christchurch for five days,” Humm said.

“Our intent is to support our coaches with their developmental learning and impart this on female and male players, whether this be through the club system or representative programs.

“We also have a greater purpose through the relationship, and this is to support the wider South Island. Examples of this include CRL and the Bulldogs spending time at St Thomas of Canterbury College – the recent NZRL Secondary Schools Tournament champions – and the Bulldogs travelling to Greymouth to deliver a coaching and player development clinic after their Christchurch visit.

“We aim to spread these opportunities wider for future visits.”

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25th September

The 16s Girls Grand Final match-up was set after a dominating victory by the Counties Manukau Stingrays and a late comeback by the Wellington Orcas girls. The Stingrays outfit put Mid Central to the sword, winning 22-6, while the Orcas were able to fight back and outlast the Scorpions 16-10. The 16s Grand Final will be played on Owen Delaney Park Field 1 at 11:00 am, also scheduled to be live-streamed on the NZRL YouTube page. In this match-up, players to watch out for include sisters Shanthie and Shafenior Lui, Billie Va’a, and Te Ngaroahiahi Rimoni. The final to determine 3rd place of the 16s Girls grade will be played prior between the Mid Central Vipers and South Island Scorpions at 9:00 am on Owen Delaney Park Field 5.

The Grand Final in the 18s grade sees a rematch between the two Auckland sides, the Akarana Falcons and the Auckland Vulcans. The teams were in the same pool faced off earlier in the tournament, with the Vulcans side modestly winning 14-4. After significant losses to their squad from injury, the Falcons narrowly beat the Counties Manukau Stingrays in their semi-final 12-10. Vulcans secured their place in the final after beating a strong Wellington side 14-4. This Auckland derby Grand Final will be played at 12:30 pm on Owen Delaney Park Field 1, to be live-streamed on the NZRL YouTube page. This final will feature several formidable 2022 Tournament Team players, including Milahn Ieremia, Claudia Finau, and MVP Seriah Palepale. The 3rd place final will be played earlier between the Counties Manukau Stingrays and the Wellington Orcas 18s girls at 10:15 am on Owen Delaney Park Field 5.


National Girls Youth Tournament Finals Draw  – Tuesday 26th September

16s Girls

Grand Final – Counties Manukau Stingrays v Wellington Orcas 11:00 am (Owen Delaney Park Field 1*)

3rd/4th place final – Mid Central Vipers v South Island Scorpions 9:00 am (Owen Delaney Park Field 5)


18s Girls

Grand Final – Akarana Falcons v Auckland Vulcans 12:30 pm (Owen Delaney Park Field 1*)

3rd/4th place final – Counties Manukau Stingrays v Wellington Orcas 10:15 am (Owen Delaney Park Field 5)


*live-streamed game on

For the entire National Girls Youth Tournament finals day draw and to keep up with all the action, visit


08 June 2022

Are you passionate about making a difference and having your say in shaping the future of rugby league in New Zealand?

New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) are looking for 4 to 5 passionate youth (aged between 16 to 20 years old) to support and co-design the establishment of a Youth Advisory Group.

The aim is to work with selected youth to co-design the Youth Advisory Group, ensuring it is a meaningful and impactful foundation that works for youth before looking to expand the group further in 2023. We know our youth have vital insights, knowledge and experiences that will be invaluable to creating greater opportunities for our community and the future of rugby league in New Zealand.

What we are looking for

  • Youth between the ages of 16 to 20 years old
  • Diversity of gender and ethnicity
  • Mixture of geographical location
  • Range of involvement and experiences in rugby league

Selected youth will be expected to provide and share their experiences and knowledge, contribute towards set tasks created through meetings, and work collaboratively with all members of the group and NZRL.

Youth would be expected to meet monthly to complete the following objectives below in collaboration with NZRL before expanding the group in 2023.


  • Co-design key roles and responsibilities with NZRL for the Youth Advisory Group.
  • Establish how the group would like to operate, including engaging with young people and with NZRL.
  • Identify key areas within the community and age-grade levels that the Youth Advisory Group would like to engage with, considering ideas on improvements or where greater opportunities could occur for youth moving forward.
  • Create a work plan for the youth advisory group, including a meeting schedule that can accommodate all members.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in being a part of, please fill out this form here.

Expression of interest will be open until Friday 17th June. If you have any questions or queries, please feel free to email

27 September 2021

New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce the National Youth Tournament returns for 2021, albeit in a revised weekly competition format to cater to Covid gathering restrictions.

The 2021 National Youth Competition will take place over three weekends instead of its usual one-week tournament format, kicking off this Saturday, 2nd October.

Despite pandemic setbacks, the best of New Zealand’s rangatahi talent will be on display as Zones battle it out for the highly contested 16s and 18s age group titles.

Both 16s and 18s competitions for this year will comprise of two pools:

Pool A – South Island Scorpions, Wellington Orcas, Mid Central Vipers, Upper Central Stallions and Northern Swords.

Pool B – Counties Manukau, Akarana Falcons and Auckland Vulcans.

Pool A will kick off this Saturday 2nd October, while Pool B can only begin once Auckland is in Level 2, subject to the October 4 announcement.

The 2021 Youth Competition Final will see the top of Pool A take on top of Pool B, in both 16 and 18 age groups, on Saturday, October 30.

Motu Tony, GM of Football and High Performance at NZRL says, “We were close to having to go two years without the Youth Competition due to Covid disruptions, but to see it ready to kick off in 2021, albeit a new format, is a great accomplishment.

“It’s a really exciting opportunity for these age group players, as it can be a steppingstone to NZ representative teams, our 20s competition and potential professional pathways. The high number of Kiwi NRL debutants  this NRL season who have played in our national tournaments and representative teams has been pleasing. This shows how important it is to hold our national tournaments as it provides our rangatahi with opportunities that can positively impact their lives on and off the field.”

Tony adds, “Thank you to the Zones, Districts and all NZRL staff who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the Youth Competition was possible. I’m looking forward to seeing the calibre of our young talent on display come October.”

Over the past ten years, the NZRL Youth Tournament has been home to some of the biggest NRL and Kiwi names such as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Fisher-Harris, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Dylan Brown and many more.

NZRL will release the full National Youth Competition draws early this week.

No crowds are permitted at National Youth Competition games while at Alert Level 2.

26 February 2021

  • New Zealand Rugby League and Auckland Rugby League have worked together to design a new approach to junior league.
  • The first year kids play rugby league (U6) will be played under non-contact ‘League Tag’ rules for the first half of the season. At the halfway point teams can decide if they want to stick to non-contact or switch to tackling. 
  • It will also be mandatory for U6 coaches to deliver a six-week tackle confidence programme.
  • In the U8-U12 grades a first-receiver bib will be used in games, this is to encourage skill development in playmakers by allowing the person in that bib to run, score and be tackled without two passes being required (which was the case under the old rules).
  • In the U9-U12 grades there’ll also be a dummy-half bib used for the same reasons as outlined above.
  • This framework will be rolled out in full in all U6-U12 grades in Auckland this year and piloted in those grades around the rest of New Zealand this year.

New Zealand Rugby League and Auckland Rugby League have collaborated to design a new approach to junior rugby league, which will see significant changes come into effect from this year. 

After working alongside the NZRL to set out the vision for junior league in the country, the ARL will rollout the new Junior Development Framework (JDF) in full for all mini/mod (U6-U12) grades in 2021.  

Supported by the NZRL, the ARL has piloted aspects of the framework in various children’s grades in Auckland since 2017, seeking consultation from local coaches, players, managers and club chairs along the way. 

While the ARL will implement the new JDF immediately, the NZRL will be adopting a staggered approach with their regions in the rollout of the new framework. 

The biggest changes are in the U6 grade where children have their first experience of organised rugby league.

Under the JDF the first eight weeks of the U6 season will be played under League Tag (non-contact) rules, while come the second half of the season teams will have the choice of continuing to play League Tag or to switch to traditional contact rugby league.  

For that grade it will be mandatory for coaches to deliver a six-week tackle confidence programme through the opening two months of the season, regardless of which form of the game they choose for the second part of the year.   

In relation to skill development and encouraging decision making in the formative years, a crucial aspect is the introduction of first-receiver bibs for the U8-U12 grades, with dummy-half bibs also being used from the U9-U12 grades.

Both bibs allow the player wearing it to run, score and be tackled without two passes being required or a change of possession being triggered (normal mini-mod rules state that two passes must be achieved to retain possession).

ARL game development and participation manager Sam Cawdron said the framework was about evolving the game to suit the attitudes and needs of those involved at junior levels.

“The JDF is heavily geared towards teaching safer tackling and giving kids confidence in contact, along with encouraging skill development, decision making and a learning and play-orientated approach for our youngest players,” Cawdron said. 

“The move to introduce League Tag for the first half of the season for the U6 grade means teams can be put through a tackle confidence programme and then decide whether they are ready to move to contact or want to continue to play League Tag. 

“This is to help build confidence and gives kids a chance to learn and be introduced to tackling. 

“Providing kids with the option on when to switch over to contact allows them to be develop at their own pace, keeping in mind that current NRL stars such as Shaun Johnson, Benji Marshall and Ryan Papenhuyzen all come from non-contact backgrounds.

“League Tag is going to help open up rugby league to a larger group of the population who are interested in a non-contact activity.”

NZRL general manager of high performance and football, Motu Tony, said the changes are a positive for the game. 

“Extensive research and collaboration have gone into this project to ensure that our participants at the Kiwi League Kids level (formerly mini/mod) have a rugby league programme that is enjoyable, safe and helps develop them on and off the field,” Tony said. 

“I would particularly like to thank the ARL for their partnership and fantastic work during the three-year pilot programme, which has resulted in an offering that I am sure will be enjoyed by all our KLK participants.”

For further information and coaching resources click here

Junior Development Framework features outlined:

  • Applies to all mini/mod (U6-U12) grades in Auckland in 2021.  
  • Being piloted in all mini/mod grades throughout the rest of New Zealand in 2021.
  • For the U6 grade only the first eight weeks of the season will be played under League Tag (non-contact) rules. Teams will then have the choice of continuing to play League Tag or to switch to traditional contact league for the second eight weeks of the season.
  • For the U6 grade it will be mandatory for coaches to deliver a tackle confidence programme in the first eight weeks of the season.
  • From the U8 grade up first-receiver bibs will be used to encourage decision making and skill development.
  • From the U9 grade up dummy-half bibs will also be used to encourage decision making and skill development.
  • The U12 grade will see two first receiver bibs used to encourage playmaking and providing options on both sides of the ruck, plus the dummy-half bib.

Due to the ongoing implications of the Covid-19 outbreak, New Zealand Rugby League regrets to advise that all NZRL run representative competitions and tournaments have been called off for the remainder of the year.

Community and Club competitions and trainings are still currently postponed until May 2 with that date to be reviewed in due course.

Due to the current uncertain revenue lines, these representative competitions would place too big of a financial burden on the Zones. International rugby league has also been cancelled for the foreseeable future, and NZRL has ceased all non-essential expenditure.

Greg Peters, NZRL CEO, “We are extremely disappointed that these competitions will not happen in 2020, but unfortunately, it was a decision that had to be made for the financial longevity of our game.

“Due to the extensive consequences of this pandemic across the code, we have had to make some significant short term sacrifices in order to see the game thrive long after this virus is contained.

“The impact and influence rugby league has is felt widespread both on and off the field. Although unprecedented, this decision was made fully with the longevity of our game in mind and the important role it plays within our communities.”

NZRL will provide a further update on club and community competitions in due course. Once lockdown restrictions are lifted, the focus will be on getting the grassroots game operating as quickly as possible.

Following the conclusion of the Talent Development Programme, New Zealand Rugby League is excited to announce the 25-man squads for the NZ16s Residents and NZ18s Residents. Congratulations to all of those selected.

Fixtures and more information on these teams will be released in the coming week.

NZ Residents 16s Wider Squad

NZ Residents 18s Wider Squad

Round three of the Talent Development Programme’s competition phase saw the level of rugby league go up a notch where stakes were at their highest.

Teams had finals in their sights as Northern faced Southern and Counties went head to head with Central in both 16s and 18s age groups. Counties 16s waltzed into the final winning three from three where they will take on Northern who conceded only one game to Counties.

The 18s age-group saw Northern comfortably beat Southern for a spot in the final where they will play Central who pipped Counties in a thriller on Saturday afternoon.

Results from round three with footage below:

Northern 44 – 6 Southern
Counties 56 – 4 Central

Central 40 – 36 Counties
Northern 52 – 36 Southern

Finals draw to be played Saturday, March 24 at Cornwall Park:

16s – Field one – 11am Counties v Northern
– Field three – 11am Central v Southern

18s – Field one – 1pm Northern v Central
– Field three – 1pm Southern v Counties

Northern 44 – 6 Southern

Counties 56 – 4 Central

Central 40 – 36 Counties

Northern 52 – 36 Southern