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The first training session for elite Auckland based youngsters wishing to join the NRL via the Manly Sea Eagles has been a major success according to organisor, former Kiwi and Manly coach Graham Lowe.
All 31 hand picked youngsters aged between 16 and 20 attended the first session this week at the Ellerslie club in Auckland. Under the supervision of Lowe and outstanding young coach Mark Gardiner the youngsters started a handpicked program chosen by the Sea Eagles NRL coaching squad.
Lowe said the first session had exceeded expectations. "It was tremendous - better than we had hoped with every one of the 31 players in attendance and around 120 interested spectators who had come along to see how it went," Lowe said. Lowe spoke to the youngsters before the session and each player was briefed on expectations of the group.
The Manly Kiwi Connection program is designed to give Auckland and New Zealand youth an alternate pathway to the NRL. At the moment youngsters have only one way to the NRL - via the New Zealand Warriors. Lowe has secured a sponsorship worth $200,000 over the next three years with leading New Zealand development company the Carpenter Group to support the program.
The Managing Director of the Carpenter Group, David Henderson attended the first session and was excited by the reception the program has been received. "There is enormous interest and it is a two way benefit - for the youth of Auckland and for the Sea Eagles who have a fine reputation with New Zealand born players over many years," Mr.Henderson said.
A Kiwi Connection team will visit Manly next season to play the Sea Eagles under 18's before an NRL match and the young Sea eagles will tour New Zealand after the completition of the competition.
Meanwhile, Mark Gardiner will spend time with the Sea Eagles NRL coaching staff before Xmas while several players have already been spoken to about training with Manly in the upcoming summer period with a view to playing in the maroon and white as early as next season. Manly already have signed big 20 year old Dallas Rennie from the Hibiscus Coast club in the Barter Card Cup.
Rennie has already completed the first week of training as part of his two year contract with the Sea Eagles. Graham Lowe will visit Manly in the next week along with David Henderson and Cyndi Nola from the Carpenter Group. The Carpenter Group have a big association in Australia with the Rockwall Group which is currently building a new housing complex in Sea Eagle territory at Karoola St at Narraweena with star winger John Hopoate buying into the project off the plan.