Young Titans aim for the big league
Seventeen players have been plucked from relative obscurity to represent Tasman in the South Island inter-districts under-17 rugby league tournament.
This crop of Tasman Titans could be considered mercenaries as most have crossed over from other codes and none play regular rugby league, but the desire for a glittering future is still there.
The sporting equivalents of soldiers of fortune will travel to Lincoln University in Christchurch this weekend where they will play teams from around the South Island, most of whose players have played league as their No1 sport since they were tearaways.
A tournament victory is unlikely, but for these budding Warriors wannabies, the real carrot is a shot at the South Island Scorpions, who will be picked from the top players at this tournament.
From there, players have a chance to impress various trans-Tasman under-20 Toyota Cup scouts, the No1 pathway to the NRL.
Last year, a precedent was set by returning squad member Nelson College student Quade Dearman, who picked up a place in the Scorpions.
From there Dearman trialled with a couple of NRL clubs, including the Cronulla Sharks and Melbourne Storm.
For the players that don't get selected, this trip will be a chance to learn more about the game from some bona fide legends.
They will meet veterans of the New Zealand game, including Ruben Wiki, Tony Kemp and Dean Bell, who will talk to them about testing standards, league careers and player agents.
As well as Lincoln University, matches will be played at St Bede's College where Tasman take on Southland first up on Sunday followed by an afternoon game against Canterbury.
On Monday, the round robin is completed with matches against the West Coast and Otago.
Head coach Barry Walsh said his team had realistic expectations about what they would achieve.
"We know we are up against it but the main goal for these guys is to get some experience and represent the province as best as we can," he said.
"It's a diverse squad, a lot of these boys have rugby backgrounds so we've had to give them a crash course in the fundamentals of rugby league in the last three weeks but it's still a once in a lifetime opportunity for these boys."
The Nelson Mail