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It’s written everywhere throughout AUT Millennium – be the best you can be. It’s a message that the Global Games team believe in as well, and they aim to encourage and enable that in young people across the country through offering sports events and experiences to young people in regional New Zealand.

Global Games Taking Mataatua Rangatahi To The Top

Inspiring the next generation of Benji Marshall's looking to make the big league is behind an initiative that will see a Whakatāne-based junior league side spent a weekend at the AUT Millennium of Sport next weekend.

The Mataatua Saddlebacks U13s side – who went the whole 2018 season unbeaten - attended the high-performance sports conditioning facility courtesy of international junior sporting events specialist Global Games. Over the all-expenses-paid weekend, the team was exposed to activities and environments normally reserved for elite athletes.  


The team, who went undefeated throughout the 2018 club rugby league season, play host to the Global Games league festival in Whakatāne each year. As hosts, they still mix with groups from around the country, but they miss out on the experience of travelling.  Even though they’re a league team, there could be a gold medal shot putter, a sprinter, a boxer in this group. It’s about showing them what’s out there.

Global Games Managing Director Tyrone Campbell says the driving force behind the initiative is to ensure talented young people from the provinces are exposed to same opportunities as they would be in the larger centres and will target 10 to 12-year-olds.  These are all great kids, but all they know is their home town, immediate families and their social circles. An experience like this is opening their eyes and providing a pathway for them.

“This is a critical age for young Kiwis, as they move from the safety of club environments - which can act as a family support base - to college, where far too many kids give up on sport. In many areas around the country, being active in sports and belonging to a sports club or team is the only thing keeping young people on the rails.

“So we want to strike while we’ve still got them engaged in an effort to inspire them to what is possible. No matter what your background is or where you come from, commit to your sport wholeheartedly and you will succeed, that’s really our message”.

Included within the itinerary were coaching clinics, pool recovery sessions and motivational speakers. Mr Campbell says giving the youngsters a first-hand insight into sport at the highest level is critical.  While on site, the Saddlebacks had a full introduction to the life of a high-performance athlete. They were put through their paces by an ex-SAS trainer, pushing them mentally and physically, and had the opportunity to work with the AUT Millennium Athlete Development programme.

As well as a water safety session, aquatic-based movement and recovery sessions, and a tour of Auckland, the group also spent time with now-retired weightlifter Tracey Lambrechs, who works at AUT Millennium. Tracey competed at three Commonwealth Games as well as the 2016 Rio Olympics, and was able to share her experience with the group. 

We wanted to treat them like professional athletes for the weekend, mimic what a sports team might do before heading off to a world cup or similar. We wanted them to have this experience, so they can then go away and think about how they can use this knowledge.  Once we have them inspired, we can help them find a pathway to get them there.”  

The initiative is a pilot, with the Auckland based social enterprise hoping to eventually host a series of teams from a variety of codes on the programme.

Established 10 years ago, Global Games delivers world-class sporting experiences for young people, built on a foundation of cross-cultural connections, enjoyment and sportsmanship. The organisation’s flagship event is the New Zealand Junior Rugby Festival, which is held annually in Taupō and attracts 100 grassroots junior teams from all across the country. In 2016, Global Games launched the annual Kiwi Junior Rugby League Festival in Whakatāne, with this event growing steadily to boast over 30 teams in 2018.