NRL Rd 16 - Warriors v Wests Tigers
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 03: Tohu Harris and Shaun Johnson of the Warriors lead the team out during the round 16 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Wests Tigers at Mt Smart Stadium, on July 03, 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The New Zealand Warriors have announced plans to field five junior development teams across the Harold Matthews Cup (U17s) and Jersey Flegg (U21) competitions in 2024 - with a sixth team to be introduced in 2025.

After three seasons without any development squads due to COVID restrictions, New Zealand is returning to the NSW Cup and SG Ball Cup (U19s) and club CEO Cameron George was excited to announce the club's proposed pathways structure.

“This is the next major step forward in resetting the club after being away from home for three years,” George said in a club statement.

“From having no development teams – just our NRL side – we're now aiming to have a total of five teams next year and six from 2025.

“Historically it's the biggest investment in development and pathways we've ever had. It also aligns perfectly with our strategic partnership with the Pasifika Aotearoa Collective."

In addition to the Warriors' return to NSW Cup, New Zealand is looking to break back into the NRLW since the club was forced to withdraw from the competition in 2021.

“As well as this we will keep pushing to return to the NRLW in 2025. That's critical for us," George continued.

“We are going back to where we always wanted to be, which is striving to become the best development club we can be.

“With this initiative in place, it would help rugby league in New Zealand across the board, giving those running the game at the grassroots level the incentive to work on increasing player numbers knowing there will be opportunities for elite players with the One New Zealand Warriors.”

The lack of junior development put the Warriors in a tough spot last year when players signed from Australia were unwilling to move back to Auckland with the club for 2023 such as Reece Walsh.