Month: July 2014

Not Just a Dress RehearsalNot Just a Dress Rehearsal

This weekend’s Major Semi-Final at Toll Stadium is not just a dress rehearsal for everyone involved.  For two teams, it will be the last time they put their club colours on and represent their club in 2014.  Many players can play their entire career without ever winning a Championship or ever playing in a Grand Final.   Grand Finals are the pinnacle of ALL sport, it’s why we play, it’s why we join a team.

Game One – Hikurangi Stags v Hokianga Pioneers – Kick Off 1pm

The Stags qualified for the Major Semi Finals by finishing 2nd in the Premiership and as a result had the first week off in finals football.  The Stags, who are in contention to win their fourth Premiership in a row, would have enjoyed the week off, as it will give player/coach Joe Rau, an extra chance of making the field after he dislocated his shoulder four weeks ago.  He stands at a 30% chance of playing and if he does play it will probably see him working solely as a ball distributor, which could provide the Pioneers an obvious target.

Should Rau not play, they have the experienced Moses Cooper and Te Tuhi Tipene, to take control in the halves.  The key for the Stags will be if they have the go forward to match the big Pioneers pack – the Stags’ strength lies in their disciplined game plan, which sees them play expansive football, feeding their youthful speed out wide in the form of Joachim and Zabdiel Edmonds and Wayne Iripa.

The Pioneers reached the Major Semi’s by finishing 3rd in the Premiership and defeating the Northern Wairoa Bulls 40 – 20 in week one of the Play Offs.  The Pioneers dominated the Bulls on the back of a powerful pack led by Elliot Pomare and Te Waironga Tohu.  However, the key to their success was Captain, Richard Koroi, playing at Stand Off.  Koroi who is built more like a 2nd Row was devastating against the Bulls.  His strength lies with his ability to run with the ball ,as well as a slick passing game, this allows him to have the defense line caught in between two minds.  His combination with Wiremu Snowden-Te Iringa at centre was lethal last week with Wiremu scoring a hat-trick of tries.

This will be the third year in a row that the Pioneers have reached this stage of the competition, this could be the year that they go the extra step and make the final, however they will need to bring their A game and Koroi will need to live up to his reputation.  There is nothing separating the two teams in 2014.  The Stags won their Rd 4 encounter 36 – 26, while the Pioneers won their Rd 13 match 28 – 22.  This game will be a CRACKER!

Game Two – Takahiwai Warriors v Otangarei Knights – Kick Off 3pm

The Warriors have been the form team of 2014, winning the Minor Premiership finishing 5 points clear of 2nd place with a massive 524 points differential. It would be an understatement to say that they dominated the competition.  The biggest challenge preventing the Warriors from winning their first premiership since 2008 will be complacency.  However, they have two experienced coaches in the form of Shane Hool and Mark Freeman who will be ensuring the Warriors will be prepared for the Knights this week.

The Warriors are a workman-like football team.  They play on the back of Captain, Edward Wilson, and loose forward, Adam Donaldson’s relentless go forward.  They are backed up by a solid pack that rolls their sleeves up with a no-nonsense go forward and quick play of the balls.

Completing the picture for the Warriors, is their little general, Joel Freeman, at Half Back, with a slick passing game to feed the dynamic cousins, Rikki and Charles Tarau and fullback, Hori Tuhoro.

The Knights have been 2014 big improvers – consistently strong, 2014 has been a good season, having progressed from 2013 where they got knocked out by the Pioneers in the minor semis in 2013.  The Knights’ progress from the Minor Semi-Finals, winning a last minute thriller against the Portland Panthers 24 – 16.

Captain, Herewini Edmonds, is their key play maker.  When he fires, the team follows.  They have an ability to launch an attack from anywhere on the paddock with pace and strength out wide.  Zion Rota at Fullback is freakishly strong, while Jordan Katene provides able back up to Edmonds in the halves.

The Knights lack a bit of size up front, but more than make up for this in attitude. Prop, Jordan Holtz is their quiet achiever with DJ Rangi and Sua Sosopo providing strong support.

The Knights will miss instrumental hooker in Linn Hunapo, who was stretchered off in last week’s semi final. The pleasing news is that Hunapo will make a full recovery.

Going by form you would imagine Takahiwai to be too strong for the Knights – in previous encounters the Warriors won 40 -16 in Rd 1 and 32 – 20 in Rd 10.  However the Knights should not be underestimated!

Grand Finals – August 9th Toll Stadium

Grand Finals 15s – Kick Off 12noon
Grand Finals 18s – Kick Off 1:30pm
Grand Finals Premiers – Kick Off 3:00pm

Finals Fever – Week 1 – Sunday 27th July 2014Finals Fever – Week 1 – Sunday 27th July 2014

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More photographs are available on our Facebook page or in our Gallery.


A healthy crowd turned up to Toll Stadium to watch the first week of the RLN MultiKai Cooker Premiership Finals Series.  Someone must have spoken to the weather gods, as the morning threatened with numerous downpours. However, come 12pm, the sun broke through and was a partner in the entertainment for the rest of the day.

GAME 1 – Hokianga Pioneers 40 v Northern Wairoa Bulls 20

At 1pm, the Hokianga Pioneers took on the Northern Wairoa Bulls.  Finals football can be a funny beast – some teams rise to the challenge while others can choke under the pressure, for the first 15 minutes of the match both teams were of the latter option.  The Bulls in the meantime had stolen a try after a one on one strip from the back of the scrum by Shelford Edwards, allowed him to run 20 metres untouched to score, however Hohepa Harding goofed the easy conversion.

Cometh the hour cometh the man, and come the 15th minute Hokianga Pioneers’ standoff Richard Koroi sprung into action.  The Bulls defence line could only stand and watch as Koroi, time after time, took on their line, creating tries in the 15th, 22nd, 25th and 36th minute for the Pioneers to take a 24 – 4 half time lead.  By the 20th minute in the second spell, the Pioneers had stretched their lead to 40 – 4, with Koroi again instrumental. His partnership with Wiremu Snowden-Te Iringa was lethal with  Snowden-Te Iringa scoring a hat-trick of tries.  Koroi himself got over the line and converted 6 tries to have a personal tally of 16 points.

The last 20 minutes saw a Bull team gain some respect, scoring three late tries, with a final score of 40 – 20.  The Bulls had tried hard all day but had failed to compete at finals intensity on the day. However as it was the first ever season of coaching for coach Cruize Selkirk, you would have to predict that next year the Bulls will come back stronger with the experience.

The Pioneers progress to the Major Semi Finals and will face the Hikurangi Stags on Saturday 2nd August 1pm at Toll Stadium.

GAME 2 – Otangarei Knights v Portland Panthers

This game had it all, it was your traditional grinding finals game where none of the teams were going to give up any easy territory.   Typical of a semi-final of intense proportions, Otangarei scored first in the 7th minute to Winger Dane Tito, with Portland hitting straight back with skipper, Robert Nathan, busting over on the 11th minute.  This spurred the Panthers pack into action and they dominated a lot of the second half possession.  The pack led by the Salase brothers, Michael and Alex, made big yards, while the Knights were desperate on defence and to their credit stemmed the Panthers flow.  In typical Rugby League fashion the team that can withstand continuous pressure is rewarded, as the Panthers turned over possession on their third consecutive set of 6 for powerful fullback Zion Rota to gallop 70 metres to score.

The Knights went into half time with a 14 – 6 lead, after standoff Jordan Katene, scored again, against the run of play.  The normally reliable goal kicker, Herewini Edmonds only converting 1 from 3.

The second half saw another action packed affair, with momentum continuously swinging from one team to the other.  First it was the Panthers who smashed their way back into contention with Alex Salase being rewarded with a well earned try and then Sharif Mangu scoring in the 55th minute for the Panthers to take a 16 – 14 lead.  Demonstrating the closeness of the game the next team to score was the Knights,as they put back to back penalties on the board to take a 18 – 16 lead, which is where the score stayed until the 78th minute, when on the back of a sweeping move, Linn Hunapo looked certain to score as he stepped inside the last defender who in the reaction of the movement stuck his arm out in an 80’s style coat hanger, cleaning Hunapo out in the action.

The game was suspended as Hunapo was stretched off and taken to hospital for observation – when the game continued, Michael Salase from the Panthers was sent from the field and the Knights were awarded a penalty try to win the game 24 – 16.

The Knights will face the Takahiwai Warriors Saturday 2nd August 3pm at Toll Stadium.

Major Semi Finals – Saturday 2nd August at Toll Stadium
Hokianga Pioneers  v Hikurangi Stags –1pm
Otangarei Knights v Takahiwai Warriors – 3pm

Preview of the RLN MultiKai Cooker – Finals SeriesPreview of the RLN MultiKai Cooker – Finals Series

Week One – Minor Semi-Finals – Sunday 27th July – Toll Stadium

Week one sees Takahiwai and Hikurangi earning the week off.

1pm:  Hokianga Pioneers v Northern Wairoa Bulls (3rd v 6th Place)

This will be an action packed match.  Their previous match was abandoned with the scores at 22 – 16 to the Pioneers while their Round 1 match was a closed fought affair with the Pioneers winning 24 – 22.  Both teams play a similar style of football which would best be described as Power football.  With big teams across the paddock they play on the back of power running and support.

The Pioneers should go into this match as favourites.  They have had a strong finish to the season and been consistently in the Top 4, while the Bulls have never really reached their potential in 2014.  They have shown glimpses of form but have been inconsistent.  However, finals football is a different scenario and the Bulls will test the Pioneers for 80 minutes and if things click on the day can provide a major upset!

3.00pm:  Otangarei Knights v Portland Panthers (4th v 5th Place)

This match should be epic.  Both the Panthers and the Knights have consistently been in the Top 6 this year.  The Knights have shown in 2014 that they are true Premiership contenders.  When they focus they can click and when they do, they are unstoppable, playing an expansive wide game of footy on the back of passionate running, combined with Herewini Edmonds’ and Linn Hunapo’s, slick passing game.

The Panthers play a very structured and controlled game.  They have a big mobile pack, led by the friendly giant Michael Gawn.  They have speed and power out wide in the form of Levi McQueen and Kelsin Harding which is fed by a devious Fats (Madisyn) Kaka at Dummy Half.  Portland have struggled throughout the year to lock out tight matches, however they would have gained confidence from last weekends Ville Salase Memorial 17 – 16 win over the Bulls.  In their previous meeting in 2014 the Knights were dominant winning 50 – 22.  They were scheduled to have met in the Rd 15 cancelled round.

Week Two – Major Semi-Finals – Saturday 2nd August – Toll Stadium

Hikurangi Stags v (winner Hokianga v Northern Wairoa) at 1:00pm

Takahiwai Warriors v (winner Otangarei v Portland) at 3:00pm

Week Three – Grand Finals – Saturday 9th August – Toll Stadium

Jennian Homes Juniors 15s Grand Finals at 12:00pm

Jennian Homes Juniors 18s Grand Finals at 1:30pm

Jennian Homes Juniors 15s Grand Finals at 3:00pm


Northland Youth Rising to the Challenge!Northland Youth Rising to the Challenge!

Rugby Leagues mantra is “more than just a game” and over the last 12 months Northland youth have been discovering the opportunities that Rugby League brings.  Last week, 6 Northlanders* attended the NRZL 16s and 18s National trials in Rotorua.  All six had been selected from the successful 2013 17’s Northern Swords team that finished 3rd in the NZRL National Competition.

The trials were not just about the game, players were assessed through a four day camp that included presentations and technical coaching from legends like, two time NRL Premiership winning coach – Des Hasler, Kiwi World Cup Winning Captain – Nathan Cayless, as well as former internationals – Jerry Seuseu, Jerome Ropati and Duane Mann – from the NZ Warriors, and NRL Welfare Officer – Nigel Vagana.

The big focus was for ‘aspiring athletes’ to think about what other paths are available to them alongside their football careers.

“To me, this is the most important part of the three days here, because it is about more than just football” said NZRL football manager Tony Iro.  “If you are going to be the best of the best in this country at league, you have to be the best of the best at everything.  You are excellent league players, why shouldn’t you be excellent students too?”

The boys did Northland proud, Tumoana Halkyard impressed with a phenomenal 20.4 on the YoYo Beep Test, following it up with a solid trial.  Steel Kake showed that he knows the way to the try line scoring two tries in the 16s trials, while in the 18s Daniel Fulop and Haimona Tierney both got mentions from Camp Boss – Tony Iro.

While on a different pathway, 18 year old James Dean Fisher-Harris, made his U20’s debut for the Penrith Panthers v Wests Tigers on July 6th.   James joins Corey Harawira-Naera.  Both Corey and James were never expected to play a part in the 20’s in the table topping Panthers team, however Corey has impressed all with his professionalism and as a result has played a major role in every 20’s game this year and has secured a starting place as the Panther’s 20’s custodian.

One organisation that is taking notice of the opportunities that Rugby League provide is Mitre10 Mega – Whangarei.  “We are a large employer in Whangarei and are proud of the service we provide in the DIY market, we are proud of our community and as such we want to get involved in community projects that add value.” said General Manager, Darren Hansen.

As such, Mitre10 Mega Whangarei are developing a partnership around their youth development program and are sponsoring the Swords 17s team at the NZRL National 17s Zone Tournament.

“It is a great fit for us, combining our ability to help young adults in our community and aligning our brand with Rugby League Northland’s Leadership Through League program. It’s fantastic to support these young men in what is hopefully, for most of them, just the start of their successful league careers,” said Darren.

One key aspect where Mitre10 Mega Whangarei can add value is by being able to provide opportunities for part-time work for young league players.  All aspiring athletes need to have a backup plan, part of that plan is to develop a work ethic as well as gaining an education.  Working with Mitre10 Mega Whangarei can provide both of these as it is possible to gain NCEA Credits in retail while working.

“It’s about developing a balance in a young person’s life, sometimes it’s difficult for young sports people to get part time work, but Mitre10 Mega Whangarei understand the value sport plays in the community and as such roster staff with sports a consideration.  We are developing good opportunities for youth and it’s great to be able to work alongside an iconic Kiwi company like Mitre10 Mega” Alex Smits, GM of RLN said.

* The six players who attended the NZRL 16s and 18s Trials were:  U16s – Steel Kake.  U18s – Tumoana Halkyard, Piri Croft, Daniel Fulop, Haimona Tierney and Caleb Aekins.

Mitre 10 Penpic

Mitre10 has been a part of New Zealand’s DIY culture since 1974. Wholly New Zealand owned and operated with around 100 stores from Invercargill to Kaitaia, Mitre10 is an amazing Kiwi success story. Mitre10 is more than twice the size of its nearest competitor and continues to grow through both share of market and number of stores. In 2004 Mitre10 New Zealand Limited opened its first Mitre10 MEGA store in Hastings and like almost all the MEGA stores it is a local, family owned business.

The Mitre10 MEGA store offers its customers an increased product range and extra services like cafes and play areas for children as well as extensive garden centres and drive through areas for both the trade and retail customers.

Mitre10 is involved in many uniquely New Zealand projects, such as the Takahe Rescue project, Plunket, the Neurological Foundation and many individual projects supported by local stores to help their local communities.

Northern Swords 13s – Trials Format – Triangular Tournament – Sunday 17 AugustNorthern Swords 13s – Trials Format – Triangular Tournament – Sunday 17 August

The 13s Triangular Tournment will double as the 2014 Northland Swords 13s trial for players and also the 2014 Northland Swords 13s Coaching Staff.

30 players will be selected to be a part of the Northland Swords 13s Training Squad. (Players must be born in the years 2001 and 2002, some consideration will be given to players born in 2003 – any players not born in these years will not be eligible to enter).

Coaching staff positions are available for Head Coach, Assistant Coach, Trainer and Manager.

RLN will have a coaching selection panel observing all coaches throughout the day, in all areas involved with coaching, in what we would see fit as the right people to be in charge of all the above roles for the 2014 Swords 13s Team.

13s Triangular Rules and Entry Form

3 Teams Co-Coaches
Bay of Islands/Kaikohe – Whanau, Moerewa, Hokianga Dez Maunsell
Whangarei South – Takahiwai, Portland, Wairoa, Manaia Veiw tbc
Whangarei North – Otangarei, WIS/Stags, Horahora John Radovanovich

All Players must be registered club players, including valid forms of identification submitted, playing week in week out footy, Coaches must submit a Team list by Tuesday 12th August 2014 that will be checked off by RLN.

Any players found not registered and without valid identification, will not be able to play or be selected. Any team submitting ineligible players will forfeit games they have played on the day and the Coach could forfeit the right to Coach the 2014 Swords 13s team.

We need to insure that the opportunities are for the kids actively playing with a level playing field of age.

The correct age of birth is the year 2001 or younger.

Please let us know if you would like to be a Manager if you are unsuccessful in getting a coaching role.

The Format for the Day is –

Date: Sunday 17th   August
Venue: Bluegoose,   Otaika Whangarei
Time Frame From 11am – 3.30pm
Tournament Format 3 Team Round Robin, then Grand Final

The Coaching staff will be named on Wednesday August 20th along with the squad. We are also looking for applications for Managers – if interested please send your interests along with any information that could help you e.g CV to:

Joe Rau – Rugby League Northland Development Officer

0212426975 –

Draw for the Triangular Tournament

Draw for Triangular Tournament - 17 August