The news of the round was the launch of the RLN Championship. The RLN Championship is a second tier competition that will be competed against by 8 teams.
The Championship draw will follow the RLN Scott Electrical Premiership draw with Premiership teams fielding reserve grade teams including, Takahiwai, Otangarei, Horahora, Hikurangi, and Moerewa, joining them will be Otaua Valleys, Pawarenga Broncos and Marist Brothers. To ensure that the draw runs cohesively, Premiership clubs will pair up with non-premiership clubs, this will see Otaua pairing with Hokianga, Marist pairing with Portland and Pawarenga pairing with Muriwhenua. This will see these clubs sharing playing facilities as well as a playing base.
RLN General Manager Alex Smits said, “This is a big step forward for League in Northland, the introduction of a second tier competition will see us build depth as well as width. It’s really impressive to see 5 premiership clubs fielding a second team. This will provide a platform for younger players to be introduced to senior league as well as providing an avenue for the older players who still want to put their boots on, we hope that over time it will increase the overall standard of league in Northland.”
The three new teams to the Championship, Otaua, Pawarenga and Marist will have 2015 to prove their ability to play into a potentially expanded 2016 Premiership. It is hoped that over the course of the next 2 – 3 years, all Premiership clubs will be able to field teams in the Championship.