SKY to showcase rising stars

25 July 2014

NZ Rugby League and SKY Television have confirmed a blockbuster doubleheader that will highlight the game's best domestic talent, as well as the next wave of future Kiwis.

On Saturday, October 18, Mt Smart Stadium will host the Pirtek National Premiership final, featuring the two best teams after a two-month round robin regular season.

Later that evening, the NZ Junior Kiwis will take on the Australian Junior Kangaroos for what promises to be another keenly contested chapter in thre trans-Tasman rivalry.

Both games will be shown live on SKY.

"The Pirtek National Premiership is an important step in our domestic pathway, giving our NZ-based players something tangible to strive for at the climax of their season," says NZRL chief executive Phil Holden.

"It is also another chance for these players to catch the eye of NRL clubs and extend their careers into the professional ranks."

The last player to achieve this was 2014 Kiwis rookie Peta Hiku, who played for Counties Manukau as a teenager in 2011 and then embarked on a journey that passed through the NZ Warriors youth programme on the way to Manly Sea Eagles.

Last year, Akarana Falcons defeated Counties Manukau 22-12 for their fourth straight title.

In recent years, the Junior Kiwis have provided an even greater springboard to bigger things.

Four of the 2012 Junior Kiwis side - Hiku, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Siliva Havili and Tohu Harris - have already graduated to senior honours, while Harris and Havili were part of the 2011 line-up that toppled Australia 28-16 at Newcastle.

Last year, the JKs led 26-10 just after halftime in Sydney, before finally succumbing 38-26.

"There can be no higher honour than representing your country and for many of these young men, this will be a pivotal game in their careers," says Holden.

"If we are to achieve our World Cup goals over the next decade, these players will be an important part of that, so this is an opportunity to taste early success against the Aussies."

The double feature, falling one week out from the Four Nations opener in Brisbane, reinforces SKY's position as the premier source of rugby league coverage in New Zealand.

"It's always great to broadcast quality domestic sport on SKY," says SKY director of sport Richard Last. "Rugby league fans can look forward to watching future superstars of the game in the national premiership final and the Junior Kiwis match against Australia."

"These fixtures offer the best of both worlds and the timing is perfect ahead of what should be a thrilling Four Nations tournament."

Saturday, October 18
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
5pm       Pirtek National Premiership final
7pm       Junior Kiwis v Junior Kangaroos 

In the news - Isaac Luke in tune

22 July 2014

Sydney Morning Herald

"We're going to change you."

They were some of the first words South Sydney coach Michael Maguire exchanged with Issac Luke in a heated phone call.

Little did Maguire know at the time that the exercise of changing Luke would be more of a journey of self discovery as the Rabbitohs rake went about revealing his true colours.

Luke was so ashamed of the way he spoke, he found it easier to isolate himself rather than run the risk of saying something that would humiliate him.

That is why only a few people know anything about his interests and hidden talents, like his ability to play a song on the piano just by listening to it.

Sitting in front of a Steinway & Sons piano inside Sydney's City Recital Hall on Wednesday, Luke showed off his rare skill playing anything from the Eagles to Mariah Carey.

Read more

In the news - Protecting young talent

21 July 2014

Sarah Harvey, Sunday News

The New Zealand Rugby League is setting up academies to stop a trans-Tasman drain of young players, who head to the lucky country with high hopes and can end up adrift.

It's the loneliness that hits first. Then the homesickness, and the culture shock.

Young men with bodies of fully grown adults struggling to survive in the often cut-throat world of professional rugby league.

Teenagers as young as 15 from big families and supportive communities adjusting to life, alone, in a new city and new country, often with the expectations of a club and a community behind them.

Up to 700 teenage league players leave New Zealand for Australia each year.

Some go because their entire family wants to settle in the "lucky country". Others are lured by player agents or picked up as development players by NRL clubs.

About one per cent will make it into the NRL, the rest will return home with their tail between their legs, or be lost to rugby league forever.

Read more

TAB backs Rise for Alex cause

21 July 2014

For every bet placed on the Warriors home game against the Manly Sea Eagles on Sunday, July 27, the TAB will donate $1 (to a maximum of $16,000) to the #RiseForAlex fund, in support of injured Newcastle Knights player Alex McKinnon.

The TAB give New Zealand Rugby League hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from bets placed.

All profit from sports betting is returned to New Zealand sporting codes - $4.2million was paid out to New Zealand sporting bodies at the end of last season - or the New Zealand Racing industry.

Betting on Warriors v Sea Eagles will open on Tuesday.

Gamble responsibly.

Kiwis hit form as Four Nations loom

17 July 2014

The NZ Kiwis inside pairing of Kieran Foran and Shaun Johnson seem to be hitting their straps at the right time of the NRL season, earning praise from their international coach, Stephen Kearney.

Both were instrumental in guiding their respective teams to big wins in Round 18. Foran scored two tries in Manly's 40-8 win over Wests Tigers, while Johnson had a try and kicked 8/8 goals in the NZ Warriors' 48-0 romp over Parramatta Eels.

"Kieran was on top of my list," says Kearney. "His performance was the standout.

"But Shaun and his team also put on a dominant display, and it was probably the culmination of a few weeks now. It has been a real step up for him."

But Kiwis and Warriors skipper Simon Mannering simply continued his run of outstanding form, with a game-high 168 metres and 19 tackles against the Eels.

"We all know he is now one of the premier forwards of the competition," says Kearney. "The reason the Warriors are in the position they are now is because they have him as captain, leading the way.

"The people who know Simon all know what he offers to a team."

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