The most anticipated event on the touch calendar for 16 and 18-year-old boys and girls have kicked off.

The Junior Nationals Touch Championship is renowned for not only developing players but also touch officials.

Touch NZ, Joe Sprangers says it allows them to find talent for the Touch Blacks.

“This is the development for our Touch Blacks they are our elite players that come through the system.”

Showcasing over 70 teams and over 100 officials, this 3-day event is about developing all areas in the sport of touch.

Sprangers says one new initiative is the Awhi Programme to encourage positive behaviour.

“This is around appropriate side-line behaviour both for the coaches and particular adults on the side-line to focus on appropriate language to use for children particularly when they are on the field and to give the kids a better experience and to also give the viewing public a better experience.”

With 19 years refereeing experience Ray Cairns says the Referee Developing Programme is another great initiative for the code.

“Someone at my age, at the tender age of 21, I'm not going to be around for a long time, so with these young 16-year-old kids coming through they are going to be here for another, maybe 10 to 15 years even and this is a huge stepping stone for them. It develops their confidence, you must remember that the referees are actually refereeing players and peers at their same age which is good and some probably go to school with each other.”

Today is day two, and on Sunday will be the finals.