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The under-16 Auckland representative side have returned home after a successful 10-day tour around the upper North Island. The side was selected from the U16 Shaun Johnson Shield tournament teams and travelled alongside an U18 Warriors side made up of Dean Bell Cup players.

The team travelled to Whangārei, Papamoa and Rotorua, taking on teams in each of the regions. Outside of the three games, the side was exposed to off the field preparations, such as nutrition and the importance that sleep has.

“To see the connection and them coming together as a team was probably the best thing to see. It’s been a huge experience for these boys, travelling around the North Island and learning a lot of that off the field stuff”, coach Jethro Friend said.

Mental wellbeing was a key focus amongst the group travelling with Sport Chaplaincy New Zealand who were able to provide insight and support in those areas outside of football. There two sides also had sessions discussing the rugby league journey with Ben Matulino and Te Aorere Pewhairangi.

Outside of footy, the team was able to have fun and develop as a group with a highlight being a hike up Mauao (Mt Maunganui) and TikTok being a consistent theme for the young players.

“It was cool because three-quarters of the team had never done that, so it was worth the hike up for a cool photo, video and a bit of a TikTok”, Friend commented. The team featured in two videos on the new Auckland Rugby League TikTok, having a bit of fun on social media.

“It was about giving them enough to work with, some guidelines and structure, but allowing them to play some of their natural football that got them here. The boys have grown, gotten better and that’s the aim for us is staff, to see them develop that maturity, character, on top of the footy”, Friend said.

Friend discussed the importance of having this continuation of development for the key age groups of under-16 and under-18 from the development camps in 2021 through until this point.

“With these competitions, they can see progression through the Shaun Johnson Shield and Dean Bell Cup, they know if they play well there, there’s a pathway on to a tour. These days, some kids are struggling for a bit of drive and motivation, so when they see the pathway, they can put their head down, continue to work hard and know what they must do to get to that end point.”

Match Results:
Auckland U16 72 – 0 Northland U16s
Auckland U16 80 – 0 Whalers U17s
Auckland U16 52 – 4 Warriors Invitational