Scouts line up championships
Recruitment managers from every club in the NRL will be scouting talent at the secondary schools national rugby league championships at Bruce Pulman Park this week. They won't be the only ones. A large number of player agents too will be spotting players and noting names.
They have all registered with the New Zealand Rugby League and they all have one objective: Find the next Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
The real Tuivasa-Sheck is the poster boy for the championship and the talent it showcases. His was the signature everyone was chasing at last year's inaugural tournament after he led Otahuhu College to the championship. He chose the Sydney Roosters and made his debut this season.
His nine tries in 12 games for the Roosters' Toyota Cup side soon had him elevated to the club's NSW Cup reserve-grade team and by round 21 of the NRL he had made his first-grade debut. Tuivasa-Sheck made such an impression in the handful of premier games that he has played that he is being touted as a future superstar.
New Zealand Rugby League's general manager high performance Tony Kemp says Tuivasa-Sheck is the reason interest among recruitment managers and agents has peaked.
"They're all looking for another Roger," Kemp says. "The interest is massive. I don't know the exact number but I know than every NRL club is represented."
Kemp says New Zealand is now producing as many Toyota Cup and NRL players as New South Wales and Queensland.
He says nearly 30 per cent of players have New Zealand connections.
Kemp says scouts and agents won't be able to approach players at the tournament.
Another Otahuhu Leopard already attracting overseas interest is Reuben Rennie .
Rennie, who captained the Counties Manukau Stingrays under-15s in the inaugural season of the national championship in 2010 has been linked with the Melbourne Storm. He plays for Howick College.
Two others who will likely catch the eye are Ken Maumolo and Michael Uluakiola and Patrick Mailata.
Maulolo from the Southern Cross Campus centre, impressed playing for the Stingrays' premier team against the Akarana Falcons at Mt Smart Stadium the Monday before last.
Uluakiola is the Tangaroa College prop/second rower who plays for the Falcons under-17s and is in the New Zealand Residents under-16 squad.
Mailata is Papakura High School's 1.9 metre/110kg prop who twice fought New Zealand amateur heavyweight champion Joseph Parker.
New Zealand Rugby League media manager Caley Wilson says Maumolo Uluakiola and Mailata are just three likely prospects.
He says there will be a stack of other players vying for attention.
The tournament kicked off yesterday with Papatoetoe High School elevated from the pool for developing schools to the championship draw. They replace Onehunga High School which pulled out.
Papatoetoe face defending champions Otahuhu College at 10am today.