The autumn dew on the rugby league fields around Ōtautahi Christchurch will be disrupted from this Saturday morning as hundreds of children gushing for the 2023 season of the Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Junior Rugby League can finally put their football boots back on.
A lucky few juniors had the chance to play at Orangetheory Stadium as part of the Melbourne Storm-One New Zealand Warriors’ NRL friendly celebrations in February, while the clubs have also played pre-season games in recent weeks.
But the real competitions of the Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Junior Rugby League get underway on Saturday as the next generation of rugby league players get ready to step in with 12 clubs represented.
The Nursery (14 teams), 6 years (11 teams), 7 years (17 teams), 8 years (14 teams), 9 years (12 teams) and 10 years (10 teams) play at Canterbury Park, Bradford Park and Coronation Park .
In an exciting development for the 2023 season of the Whitehead Plumbing & Gas Junior Rugby League, the 11 year olds (nine teams), 12 year olds (six teams) and 13 year olds (six teams) will play their games at Ngā Puna Wai. Last year only the 12’s played at Canterbury Rugby League’s home ground.
“It’s great for those qualities to experience the high quality surfaces at Ngā Puna Wai,” says CRL Competition & Operations Manager Jordan Chand.
“Christchurch City Council provided the goal posts for our juniors so we would like to thank them on behalf of the Canterbury Rugby League.”
Nighttime midweek rugby league returns at Ngā Puna Wai for the senior junior classes: 16-rate boys (seven teams) and 18-rate boys (four teams) play Monday nights from May 1st, and 14-rate boys (six teams ) will play on Wednesday evenings from May 3rd.
The girls’ competitions begin a week later, with grades 14 (four teams) and 16 (three teams) playing on Monday evenings from May 8th. Details for the 18s girls competition will be confirmed after Canterbury Rugby League Development Day on Sunday April 30 (10am-2pm at Wainoni Park).
The number of players signing up for 2023 at Canterbury already reflects the growth of rugby league in that division in New Zealand and Australia, with 156 girls from the Kindergarten class up to 13 years old and 105 girls for the 14 year old class and older who have signed up so far.
“A key objective of the 2023-26 Canterbury Rugby League Strategic Plan is that our community be the recipient of safe and positive experiences,” said Malcolm Humm, CEO of CRL.
“By running our most recent development day for youth coaches and having access to such high-quality facilities as Canterbury Park and Ngā Puna Wai, we believe we are doing the right things to achieve that goal for our youth players.”
CRL would also like to extend a sincere thank you to Whitehead Plumbing & Gas – their support of the junior rugby league is essential in ensuring Canterbury’s youngest participants have the best possible experience of our great game.
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All images courtesy of Matty Louis Photography