A series of rugby league academies around the country may soon prepare New Zealand’s burgeoning talent for professional and international careers.
The scheme, designed to keep homegrown players in New Zealand longer before trying their hands in the NRL, was floated by NZ Rugby League high performance general manager Tony Iro at the organisation’s annual meeting.
About 40% of NRL first grade and U20 rosters are made up of players with Kiwi heritage, so NZRL wants to improve their chances of success by better preparing them for the on-field and off-field pressures at the next level.
The academies are planned to begin in November, would run over summer months and culminate in a representative competition next March/April.
They would target 15-18 year olds and put special emphasis on educational achievement.
Iro also proposed more representative opportunities for players, including age-group fixtures between NZ resident teams and expatriate Kiwis based in Australia.
Friend makes NZRL history
Veteran administrator Cathy Friend has become New Zealand Rugby League’s first female life member at the national organisation’s annual meeting in Auckland.
Friend (80) comes from one of game’s most distinguished families – brother Ian Bell played alongside nephews Dean Bell and Clayton Friend (Cathy’s son) for the Kiwis against Papua New Guinea in 1983.
She has served the sport for more than 60 years and was one of the driving forces behind the NZ Maori participation at the 2000 Rugby League World Cup, subsequently earning the Maori Sports Administrator of the Year award.
Friend was also awarded a Queen’s Service Medal for her contribution to rugby league. She is a life member of the NZ Maori Rugby League, Auckland Maori Rugby League and Auckland Rugby League, and has previously received an NZRL Distinguished Service Award.
This year’s Distinguished Service Award winners are Kevin Bailey of Auckland, Dave McLeod of Auckland, Ray Fitiao of Dunedin and Sonny Rata of Palmerston North.
Fissenden to chair NZRL board
Aucklander Garry Fissenden has been installed as new chairman of New Zealand Rugby League.
Previous chair Scott Carter officially stood down at the annual meeting today, after five years at the helm and three leading the Rugby League International Federation.
Fissenden was confirmed by a board vote after the annual meeting, with NZRL life member Ray Haffenden retaining his position as vice chairman.
Fissenden has been an NZRL director since 2009 and is currently chief executive of the Skills industry training organisation.
His extensive business background as a chief financial officer, and technology and operations general manager has already been of tremendous benefit to NZRL, and that promises to continue into a new era.
“I’m extremely humbled by the appointment,” says Fissenden. “My day job is all about stakeholder management, so I’m a massive fan of communication, transparency, integrity and professionalism.
“That’s my style, but I think it’s also a good fit for the changing environment we find ourselves in.
“We’ve got a new strategy for the future and I’m excited by the opportunity to help lead it.”
During his league playing career, Fissenden turned out as prop for Te Atatu Roosters.
The annual meeting confirmed the re-appointment of incumbent John Bishop and addition of newcomer Tim Gibson to the board, but NZRL has chosen to re-advertise the elected director vacancy.