27 June 2024

2023 was one of the best years for rugby league in New Zealand in the last decade, with increased participation almost outshined by an unprecedented growth of popularity and positive narrative surrounding the game. New Zealand Rugby League saw record entries for their National Secondary Schools Tournament (NZSS), which almost doubled in size from 21 teams in 2022, to 38 teams in 2023.

Off the back of this, the 2024 NZRL National Secondary Schools Tournament (NZSS) is lining up to be the biggest year of the Nationals to date.

As one of the most anticipated events on the rugby league calendar, 65 teams are set to be invited to the Nationals across four grades; Boys Premiership, Boys Championship, GirlsChampionship and U15 Boys Carnival.

In 2022 the Girls’ and U15s’ divisions were successfully introduced to the Tournament. In 2023 these two additional divisions returned and NZSS history was made when St. Thomas of Canterbury College became the first non-Auckland and South Island school to win the Boys Premiership in over 20 years.

Interest in the female and girls’ game has significantly grown, with over 18 schools expressing interest in entering the Girls Championship grade this year.

The spike in interest in the Tournament can be attributed to the continued work being carried out nationally, with secondary school competitions taking place in both the North and South Islands.

General Manager of Football & High Performance Motu Tony says, “Our NZSS Tournament continues to grow year on year, and this year’s tournament will be the biggest ever. Our NZSS tournament caters to those wanting to have fun as well as represent their school, and to those seeking to capture the attention of NRL and NRLW clubs.

“Not only will rugby league be played at the tournament, education hubs for wellbeing and injury prevention will also be available to participants”.

Recent NZSS participants both male and female have progressed to high-performance teams and pathways domestically and in Australia.

Sharnyze Pihema who represented Manurewa High School in the inaugural 2022 Girls’ Tournament, went on to captain the 2024 NZRL Ahi Kā Aotearoa national representative team. At the NRL Harvey Norman Women’s Championship in the Gold Coast Pihema was named Player of the Tournament.

From the 2023 Boys’ Premiership Champions St. Thomas of Canterbury College, Bishop Neal, Lennox Tuiloma, Micah Sula, and Isaiah Savea were selected for the One NZ Warriors 2024 Harold Matthews Cup squad who won their NSWRL competition earlier this year.

The 2024 NZSS Tournament will be played in Auckland from 6th – 8th September.