Alex Smits, RLN General Manager was humbled on Friday when he was awarded the Rowsells Collision Repair Leadership in Sport Award. The award recognises the most outstanding achievements/results by a sport leader in relation to their sport and/or the sport sector.
The award acknowledges the transformation that Rugby League has gone through in Northland since the creation of Rugby League Northland in 2010. In 2010 there were only 620 registered participants in Northland. In 2015 there have been 3472 registered participants, including a massive growth in clubs to 1723 registered players. In schools prior to 2010 there were no formal competitions, however in 2015 RLN has a sporting calendar to be proud of with 11 Colleges playing in the NorthTec Adam Blair Trophy, 38 Primary Schools playing in the Northland Champions festivals, amounting to 1749 players across all competitions.
RLN is represented on a National stage by the Northern Swords at 15s, 17s and Premier grades which provide a pathway to National Representation and the NRL, and each year Northland has a number of players that gain NRL cadetships. RLN delivers the nationally acclaimed Leadership through League program that sees community collaboration between RLN, Colleges and Primary schools through Tua-Kana Teina with college students coaching and mentoring primary school children. On the back of the increased activity, RLN has developed an organisation and governance model that will help drive the game into the future.
“I think that we have got the greatest sports product. It’s fast, exciting, end to end action combined with a tough physical component that requires speed, skill and team work. It’s a great vehicle to engage our communities and for the young, talented, committed players there is an achievable pathway to the NRL. I am proud of the steps that Rugby League has taken and I am honoured by the award, but the recognition must go out to the Northland League community, the RLN Staff and board, our clubs and our schools. League people are passionate about their sport, and the growth has come from their passion. All we needed was to get people working together and improve the structure.” Smits said.
Smits joined RLN at the beginning of 2012 and departs at the end of this year to new pastures as a Rural Real Estate agent. “It seems ironic to receive leadership award when I am leaving the organisation, however I think that as a leader you also need to know when to leave. I am confident that we have a good foundation in place, a good board to lead the organisation and it will provide a great opportunity to engage someone that has another skill set to mine.” Smits said reflecting on his departure as General Manager of RLN.
There was another Rugby League winner at the Northland Sports awards evening. Eli George won the Sport Northland Code Award for Rugby League recognising his achievement at Senior level. Representing the Northern Swords in the NZRL National Competition, George was the first ever Northern Swords player to be selected in the NZRL Residents Selection team, selected from the seven zones that competed in the National Competition. George, who played for the Hokianga Pioneers in the RLN Scott Electrical Premiership, lead the Northern Swords in a much improved season as a hard running hardworking Prop Forward.