5 Sep 2014

Young NRL hopefuls told to be realistic

3:38 pm on 5 September 2014

Scouts for Australia's top NRL clubs descended on South Auckland this week, looking to scoop up the cream of this country's young rugby league talent at the national secondary schools tournament.

National league tournament

Kelston Boys Tupu Lisati during Kelston Boys High School v St Paul's College, Final at the National Secondary Schools Rugby League Tournament. Photo: Photosport

But the New Zealand Rugby League warned the hundreds of young players their dreams of a professional sports career are unrealistic and they need to plan for a trade or other skill to fall back on.

Recruitment manager for defending NRL champion Sydney Roosters Peter O'Sullivan who was at the tournament, said scouts would keenly watch up and coming players.

"The athleticism and the talent is of immense quality, so you'd be crazy to not come here and develop that talent."

At this very tournament three years ago O'Sullivan spotted Roger Tuivasa-Sheck - now the club's star fullback.

And while every young player at this week's tournament may dream of doing the same, NZRL football general manager Tony Iro said they could not afford rely on sport for their future.

"The stark reality of it is that 99 percent of these boys will have to look for a vocation somewhere else, that's why we want to push this message, because for all the glory and the glamour of professional sport most of out boys aren't going to be achieving that."

Most of the young players are Pasifika and Maori and from poorer communities who see professional sports as a way out for them and their families.

Iro said the NZRL's message is education was the way to a more secure future, and rugby league is just the hook.

"All our talk to them is trying to achieve as best they can at school whether that's going down the tertiary pathway or a trade pathway."

Mr O'Sullivan said it was the same message across the Tasman.

"Part of the ethos at every NRL club and certainly at the Roosters is no work, no study, no play."

He said that if the players weren't studying they were working.

"So we're hard on the boys in that area, apart from the footie we want the boys studying, working."

The NZRL teamed up with industry training providers Competenz and The Skills Organisation to promote trades apprenticeships to its young elite players, their families and friends.

Got a Trade? Got it Made! spokeswoman Sophie Czurajewski said some players were already on track for further education, but most were only thinking about league.

"There needs to be a plan B, or more like a plan A, that's why you have the likes of Simon Mannering who had entered into a carpentry apprenticeship."

The police and defence forces have been recruiting alongside the trades at the tournament with some success.

One of the young league players said that having career advice at the tournament was helpful.

"It's my dream to play league for a job and getting education out of it would be great, league isn't going to last forever."

The New Zealand rugby league secondary school nationals end today with an all-Auckland grand final between Kelston Boys High and St Paul's College.