Warriors unfazed by union's strong pull in New Zealand

March 13, 2018

Warriors unfazed by union's strong pull in New Zealand

Ofahiki Ogden at a training session during his time at the Warriors. Photo: Supplied.

The Warriors say they are confident about their recruitment and development of young players despite the allure of rugby union in New Zealand.

After the controversial loss of schoolboy superstar Etene Nanai-Sutero from the Warriors development squad, the club is confident that case hasn’t damaged their recruitment or development of young players.

Warriors assistant coach and former recruitment and development manager Tony Iro says Nanai-Seturo was an isolated case and only highlighted because he was so young.

“Etene was one in roughly 400 kids that have been through the Warriors system in the last decade or so and roughly 70 per cent of our first grade squad at any one time are locally produced.”

Iro admits the Warriors do have to work harder on recruitment due to the overriding influence of union within New Zealand.

“We’ve always sort of played second-cousin to rugby union, which isn’t a problem for us to be fair. We’ve just got to be a little bit more proactive in terms of how we recruit.”

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs forward Ofahiki Ogden signed with the Warriors development squad when he was 16. Ogden says his time with the Warriors was a positive experience, despite the continual pressures he felt at school to play rugby union.

“I felt plenty of pressure. My school always asked me to play for the 1st XV because they knew I played league. I was never interested but that didn’t stop people like friends and teachers asking me to play.”

Ogden praised the Warriors for their part in mentoring him into the player he is today.

“They really made me feel like a valuable member of the club and were very good at helping me develop my skills by setting up video clips of trainings and showing me what I could do to improve.”

Melbourne Storm’s Nelson Asofa-Solomona has had a highly successful rugby league career at the age of 22. Last year the giant prop helped the Storm take out the 2017 NRL Grand Final and represented New Zealand in the Rugby League World Cup.

Despite all of his success, Asofa-Solomona says he did not have a lot of exposure to rugby league throughout his schooling years while living in New Zealand. He confesses to only having played 10 games of rugby league before heading to Melbourne Storm.

“It even took a few fights with my dad to convince him to let me play league because we come from a hard rugby union family.”

He says it was a huge gamble to turn down a contract in union for a game he had hardly played but says he followed his heart and doesn’t regret his decision one bit.

Listen to more of Tiffany Salmond's interview with Tony Iro about the "juggernaut" that is rugby union in NZ:

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