New Zealand Rugby League will kick off its inaugural National 20s Competition this Saturday 27 February when Auckland (Blue) take on Central Districts at 2pm in Opaheke Auckland, followed by Waicoa Bay v Auckland (White) at Rotorua International Stadium 4pm.
Sunday 28th will see the South Island take on Northland at 12pm down at Nga Puna Wai Stadium in Christchurch.
All games will be televised live on Sky Sport 4, and for Australian viewers games available on Fox League, Kayo and Watch NRL.
The round-robin competition will play over five consecutive weeks with the two top placed teams set to face off in the final the weekend of April 2.
This year the NZRL National Youth Tournament will move to a 16s and 18s age group format as opposed to its previous 15s and 17s structure to coincide with both Sport NZ’s ‘Balance is Better’ philosophy, as well as the NSW and QLD age group competitions.
With this shift in age categories, NZRL will provide an additional three years of growth and development opportunities for players here in New Zealand with 16s, 18s and now 20s pathways. NZRL will take this a step further come 2022 by entering an NZRL U19 team into the NSW SG Ball competition.
NZRL GM of High Performance and Football, Motu Tony says: “We have been working hard to improve the pathways we provide for our young rugby league players in New Zealand.”
“Our rangatahi are vital to the domestic and professional success of the code, the average age of an NRL debutant is now 21, so it’s crucial we are developing and strengthening this age group as much as we can at home. This competition also allows coaches, managers, trainers and match officials to gain further development and experience.
“The 20s Competition allows us to foster budding rugby league talent from up and down the country and the potential NZRL 2022 SG Ball team adds another layer of incentive for our young players.”
Auckland hosts two teams as Auckland Rugby League, Akarana and Counties Manukau join forces to create an Auckland Blue and Auckland White team. Other teams represented include Northland, Wai-Coa Bay, Central Districts, and South Island.