News Introducing Alex Smits

Introducing Alex Smits

I have dedicated much of my life to the game I love Rugby League.  I grew up in Wellington, but was a late starter to League as I spent most of my youth playing soccer.

I represented both the Hutt Valley Dolphins and the Wellington Dukes in the old Lion Red Cup before getting the “call up” to go play League in the South of France.

Over the next 9 years I played for three clubs in France and 2 in the UK.  My last three seasons were spent in the UK as player coach for the newly formed professional club the London Skolars.

This was a very challenging role as we have a very tight budget and limited playing resources (much like being in Northland), however we managed to build a very credible and competitive club.

On my return from Europe, I worked in sales and recruitment, but the call of rugby league wouldn’t go away!

Three years ago I joined forces with Wellington Rugby League as the Community Development Manager.  In three years we managed to develop rugby league at the community level increasing the number of school teams from 4 to 77, which in turn took overall player registrations from under 1900 to over 4500.

I am committed to Northland League – I have sold up in Wellington and moved lock stock and barrel (including my now 8 month pregnant wife Sarah) up to Northland.

I love a challenge and have already seen the passion and skill of the people in northland!  

Together we can all achieve!!!

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Saturday will see a festival of Rugby League with the Northern Swords playing the Wellington Orcas as well as the Barney Wharerau Memorial 9s Tournament.  The day forms part of RLN’s strategy to bring the Swords to the community, we have a young team that we are working with for the future.  The NZRL National Competition is hugely competitive and of an incredibly high standard, come down to Kaikohe and enjoy some high class Rugby League, bring your whanau, it’s a free event and support the Swords and be a part of the first ever Barney Wharerau 9s Tournament. You may  even being watching Northland’s next NRL Star with two players from Northland recently signing contracts with NRL Clubs.

Firstly, Caleb Aekins, who will be making his Swords Premier debut this weekend against the Wellington Orcas, has signed a deal that will see him going to the Penrith Panthers.  Caleb has been an integral part of the Northern Swords junior system for the last three years.  He started in the U15s before playing for two years in the U17s.  Caleb plays at either Stand Off or Centre and has been an NZRL trialist for the last two years at the U18s age group.  Caleb, in his first year playing Premier League, won the man of the match award and an RLN Scott Electrical Premiership winners medal, playing for the Hikurangi Stags this year.  Caleb has vision, strength, speed and big work ethic.  Caleb will join a host of other Northlanders at the Panthers, with established NRL Stars, Elijah Taylor and Sam McKendry, James Fisher-Harris and Corey Harawira-Naera playing in the U20s and Steel Kake who played for the Panthers U18s this year.  Caleb will be competing for a place in the Panther’s very successful U20s Holden Cup Team.  The Panthers with James and Corey were Minor Premiers this year, they convincingly defeated Manly last week to earn this week off in the finals before they play the winner of the Broncos and the Warriors in the major Semi Final.

The other player hoping to join the ranks of the NRL will be Nathan Newton.  Nathan who will represent the Swords U17s this year won’t be travelling as far as he joins the Warriors.  Nathan who has played for the Champions Marist U18s team and for the Swords 15s and 17s is a solid no nonsense loose forward second row in the elk of Simon Mannering, with huge motor giving, that sees him topping the tackle and hit count week after week, he also has a very good offload.  Nathan was in a position to pick and choose as he also had an offer on the table from the Panthers, that was until Duane Mann, Warriors Development Manager stepped into the picture.  “I’ve had my eye on Nathan for a couple of years now, he performed well at the NZRL National U17s last year, then he was a standout player in the NorthTec Adam Blair XIII v Warriors Development Squad in March this year, he followed this up with great performances for the Swords in the Upper Central U17s Tournament then for Boys High at the recent NZRL Secondary School Nationals, he is strong with a great work ethic and very coachable.”  Mann said.

Nathan chose to go to the Warriors as it is closer to home and he will immediately form part of the successful Warriors U20s program.  The Warriors have the best U20s program in the NRL being three time winners and finalists every year since the start of the competition.

Both Caleb and Nathan were recruited by Daryl Mather, who is taking a special interest in Northland after signing Sam McKendry and more recently James Fisher-Harris, Corey Harawira-Naera and Steel Kake.  Daryl is a regular visitor to Northland having recently bought NRL Coaching Legend and General Manager of the Penrith Panthers Phil Gould over.

The other thing Nathan and Caleb have in common is Whangerei Boys High, who are producing a string of NRL and future stars.  In the last two years, Boys High have seen James Fisher-Harris, Steel Kake and Nathan and Caleb commence their NRL Pathway and let’s not forget that Boys High also produced NRL and Kiwi Legend Adam Blair.  But it doesn’t stop there, three years ago Kadince Christensen signed with Parramatta and more recently at the NZRL National Secondary Wiremu Greig caught the eye of a Roosters Recruitment Manager, also in the mix are Paul and Lee Turner.  RLN Development Manager Aaron Thomas thinks that this provides a great opportunity. “Northland youth rugby league has been identified as a real talent hotspot by several NRL clubs and WBHS in particular, through its character as an all-boys school it has the ability to become a real force in Rugby League. We are in discussions at present with the vision of working alongside WBHS to create a program that fosters career pathways with a sports background and in particular rugby league. It’s about identifying and nurturing talent from as early as year 9 and providing wrap-around support and educational programs which will be conducive to each student’s NCEA academic goals. It’s not just WBHS, there are other opportunities in the pipeline to ensure that all students are able to participate in rugby league and pursue an educational pathway along the way”, Thomas said.

But wait there’s more, for a small area like Northland we are punching well above our weight, another Northlander Bayleigh Bentley-Hape from Moerewa has just signed with the Sydney Roosters to become part of their 2016 Harrold Mathews U16s campaign.  Bayleigh made the move to Sydney this year after being scouted playing touch.  He played for the South’s Juniors U15s Club where he joined fellow Northlanders, Harry Larkin, TJ Sionetali, Trenity Peters and Dalton Armstrong.  Harry, TJ and Dalton have reportedly signed to play for the South’s 2016 Harrold Mathews U16s campaign, while Trenity has signed with the Bulldogs!

RLN Finals series coming quickly – Corporate Hospitality AvailableRLN Finals series coming quickly – Corporate Hospitality Available

The RLN Multikai Cooker Premiership finals is a celebration of all things Northland and Rugby League with our 15s and 18s club finals as well as the Main event the Premiership Final.  Come along with a group of mates and celebrate in style at Toll Stadium.  We have corporate hospitality boxes available (limited supply)- packages start at $600 for 12 people in your own box.  If you are interested please contact Alex at

A Surprise Visit for our Tamariki at PamapuriaA Surprise Visit for our Tamariki at Pamapuria

Paparangi with Kevin LockeIt was great to see the smiles and excitement on the faces of Pamapuria Primary School students on Wednesday 19th March when they had a day out with two inspiring role models, Nesian Mystics, Te Awanui Reeder and Rugby Leagues very own Kevin Locke from the New Zealand Warriors.

Pushing the game of Rugby League in his school, Principal Rikki Horlock, had seen what the kids needed and wasn’t short of giving it to them. Rikki has implemented a new scheme in the school and a new programme called the V.I.P project (Various Inspirational People) which involves getting inspirational role models in to his school to help uplift the kids and give them a sense of direction for life and dreams they may have. The overall outcome is that if they want it, to go and get it, because it is possible and these are the people who can show it.

A fun felt day spent with Kevin Locke had the kids screaming to put a football in to their hands and get out on the field. Kevin ran through his history in Rugby League from playing Footy as a child right through to spending 7 years in the Warriors. He told the kids he plans to move on to building after his League career comes to an end and hopes to get his own business on the upright. Currently studying business, Kevin Locke is truly skilful both on and off the field. After a long day sharing stories, kicking and passing the footy field with Kevin, the students of Pamapuria Primary School surely have dreams set to be Rugby League stars and Rugby League Northland are happy to be a part of this event.

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