Photo John Morin D9068-245

ALL signs are pointing towards the annual New Zealand Maori Rugby League junior tournament returning to Whakatane next year, following an outstanding two-day event held last weekend.

The tournament welcomed 48 Maori teams from around the country to compete in three age grades, under-10, 11s and 12s.

Tournament chairman Richard McGarvey said hosting such a large tournament was a fantastic opportunity.

“It was hectic. There was a group who helped organised the event and did a fantastic job, but it was great to see so many young children here playing league.’’

The success of the tournament helped the event run smoothly.

“The weather was ok on the Saturday and then lovely on the Sunday and the people came from everywhere to show their support.’’

Rex Morpeth Park, Whakatane High School and Athletic Park all hosted games, with the fields at full capacity.

“There was honestly very little spare space, all the fields were used and for the whole weekend.’’

Foundations had been put in place to see the tournament return next year.

“They were talking with us, but it sounds more than likely that the tournament will be here again in Whakatane next year, which is fantastic for this area.’’

McGarvey said the league on display was strong.

“They were the best players in the country for their ages at the tournament and you could tell, the league was fantastic.’’

The tournament held in New Plymouth in 2018, produced fewer numbers than the Whakatane edition.

“This was the biggest tournament they have ever had. There were teams from all over. I think there is something about this region that the Auckland people really enjoy because they had a strong turnout.’’

A good number of teams from the Eastern Bay region took part in the tournament.

McGarvey said it was more about having fun with too many teams taking part to make it into a proper competition.