Warriors' fight to keep young talent in NZ bears fruit as club signs son of All Black
16:41, Jul 24 2019
Rocco Berry warms up with Chanel Harris-Tavita prior to the Warriors' game against the Sharks in Wellington.
The Warriors have a son of a former All Black on their books after securing the services of highly-rated youngster Rocco Berry.
Berry's father, Marty Berry, made 10 appearances for the All Blacks between 1986 and 1993, including one test match against Australia.
Marty enjoyed a distinguished provincial career as a midfield back, playing exactly 100 games for Wairarapa-Bush and Wellington, as well as spending a season in Super Rugby with the Hurricanes in 1996.
Having followed in his father's footsteps in union, Rocco has made a name for himself as a skillful fullback, starring for Wellington college St Pats Silverstream at 1st XV level and last year was selected to attend the Hurricanes under-18 training camp.
But the 18-year-old is now eying a future in the 13-man game with the Warriors fending off strong interest from rival clubs in both codes to sign him to a four-year contract.
"He's got some really good attributes on and off the field, you've only got to talk to him for five minutes to know he's been raised in a very good environment," Warriors chief executive Cameron George told Stuff.
Young fullback Rocco Berry (back) spent last week training with the Warriors first-grade squad.
"It's very exciting we've been able to secure a son of an All Black into our league family. We do know that he was heavily chased by a number of rugby league and rugby clubs and to get his signature is certainly a massive privilege for our club."
With the Warriors playing Cronulla in Wellington last week, the Auckland club took the opportunity to give Berry the full first grade experience.
Berry trained with Stephen Kearney's squad all week, stayed at the team hotel and even took part in the pre-game warm-up at Westpac Stadium and recovery session the next day.
"It's all part of bringing some of our young kids closer to the inner sanctum and the experience of being an NRL player," George said.
"I spoke to him at length after the game and it was amazing to see the affect it had and how the players had rubbed off on him over the week. Full credit to our squad and coaching staff, they really allowed him to be hands-on.
"Experiences like this shows the young kids coming through our system that you're a part of our club, it doesn't matter where you sit in the structure."
It's all part of the Warriors' efforts to keep the best young talent in New Zealand.
Faced with intense competition from Australian NRL clubs, there's been countless examples over the years of the country's leading youngsters being lured across the Tasman.
But led by general manager of football Brian Smith and recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan, the Warriors have restructured their development pathways over the last 12 months to identify and recruit players nation wide.
"The re-setting of our pathways now is really showing the young kids New Zealand-wide there's a great way here to be part of the NRL and you don't have to go to Australia," he said.
"Whether you're a rugby union kid playing the game or rugby league, there's opportunities here at the Warriors."