Scrapping NYC would be a 'tragedy' for Warriors

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 17/08/2014
Ben Henry
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
CHAMPIONS: Current Warriors and Kiwis player Ben Henry lifts the National Youth Competition trophy after his side won the grand final in 2011.

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Scrapping the under-20s competition would be a ''tragedy'' for development at the Warriors to the extent the first-grade team would fail to be competitive, its head of recruitment says.

The under-20s competition, which has been in place since 2008 and has been won twice by the Junior Warriors, is understood to be in line to be scrapped in 2017.

The competition has launched the careers of the likes of Shaun Johnson, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Konrad Hurrell, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ngani Laumape and Carlos Tuimavave.

The Junior Warriors are one of three teams under the Warriors banner, including the first grade and NSW Cup, team.

Fairfax Media reported last weekend the under-20s Holden Cup competition would go when the broadcast deal expires at the end of 2017.

It would be replaced by under-18 and under-20 competitions aligned with NSW and Queensland Cup teams.

Warriors general manager of football operations Dean Bell said the Warriors stood to suffer if the competition was scrapped.

''It's vital. It's not like it's even a question. We couldn't manage our development programme and even be competitive at the NRL level if we didn't have the under-20s. It's that serious.

''We just don't have the same systems and process as a country, let alone as a club, that the Australians have. We were always going to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the under-20 competition and I know decisions aren't based just on the Warriors needs but, still, it would leave a massive hole.

''It would affect us more than anybody.''

Bell said there was no other way for young players to come through the ranks in New Zealand, particularly as there was no longer a national competition.

''Not in New Zealand. There might be in Australia but in New Zealand there is nothing like what they have in place that can prepare the players out of the junior club level through the New South Wales Cup through to NRL.''

Bell said there was no contingency at the Warriors as to what they would do without the Under 20s competition.

''It has never been on the radar. We have been given no information regarding this. It would be a tragedy for the developmental process at the Warriors if they were to abolish the 20s that for sure.''

Bell said the idea that young players could come through the reserve grade in the NSW Cup instead was not logical.

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''You are talking 17-year-olds. They can't play against grown, seasoned professionals. Even on the welfare side of things, that is just not going to happen.''

However, John Ackland who coached the Juniors to their two titles in 2010 and 2011 and is now CEO of Auckland Rugby League, believes the club did benefit from the Juniors but could now do without it.

''I thought it was a good thing for the Warriors. I thought it suited us at the time. It certainly helped us keep our costs down. It kind of provided a good advertisement for the game and for local guys to stay in New Zealand.''

Ackland said he believed the establishment of a draft was more important to the Warriors.

''I don't think [the Warriors] will be disadvantaged. I think it was good at the time, it was a great vehicle for the club.

''Now they are spending money on another team as well. There's nothing wrong with that. I think the key thing from a business sense is the draft. That will make sure of the development costs under control. 

''I think whatever solution the NRL apply to that pathway I think they need to be aware that New Zealand's a unique case, a unique environment and we need a unique solution to suit us.''

Some within the game believe the under-20s competition is too expensive and does not provide the best development pathway to the NRL, but the Warriors believe the opposite.

Bell said the Junior Warriors operation cost more than $1 million a year but the club considered that money well spent.

''To us, it's money worth spending because we are producing players that are capable of playing NRL. 

''It has taken us a while to get those three teams lined up under the Warriors brand but certainly we are going to get success from that, so it's important we maintain that.

''It's made a massive difference. You look at the players now that we have got in our squad that have come through the under 20s. 

''It would be unthinkable if we didn't have a 20s for the Warriors.''

- Sunday News

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