As top NRL clubs prepare for the finals, behind the scenes, some of them have been part of a new initiative to develop Kiwi youth.
The Roosters, Storm, Knights and Broncos have joined forces with a Kiwi trust to mold future superstars who are both stellar on and off the field.
The free annual camp in Auckland is run by the Elite Sport Performance Trust with the four NRL clubs taking part online this year due to Covid-19.
Unlike most camps, this one is aimed at kids aged 14 and under.
“It's crucial that we get these young people at 14 years old before they put up that mask of invincibility and before they do great damage to themselves,” says mental health advocate Mike King.
“Take care of things off the field and the on-field stuff should take care of itself.”
Over the three-day camp, ESP Trust executive chair Dixon McIver said players start to come out of their shell.
“If you mix that and combine that with what they're learning in the mental and headspace and the characters of what a footballer should look like, you've got the ultimate athlete in rugby league.”
ESP Trust treasurer Stan Martin believes the lessons learned at the camp can help young players go far in their football careers.
“They're getting a head start on every other kids.”
There’s proof of that with one speaker at this year’s camp, Christchurch-born Broncos player Jordan Riki, telling this year’s group he was in their position not long ago at the camp before making his NRL debut earlier this year.