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Warriors players voice support for second Kiwi team down track

Warriors players believe the introduction of a second NRL team in New Zealand could greatly help rugby league attract, develop and keep more emerging prospects.

While another Brisbane-based team could be added to the competition in 2023, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said earlier this week that it could then lead to an 18th club a few years down the track, possibly across the ditch.

The NZRL and the Warriors have since expressed their reservations about expansion in New Zealand for the foreseeable future, raising some concerns about commercial viability to Stuff.

But from a playing perspective, several Warriors stars would support the admission of a second NRL team in their home nation.

"I'd love that. The main sport in New Zealand is rugby at the moment, and I think it's because we only have one [NRL] team which you can play for," halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita told NRL.com.

"Bringing in another team will hopefully create new pathways for younger people to come through and make more kids want to come and play rugby league. I think we've got a lot of responsibility for kids that want to play rugby league in New Zealand."

Marquee recruit Addin Fonua-Blake, a one-time Kiwi international, said the onus was on the Warriors to succeed in the coming seasons to ensure there was enough interest for expansion.

"I definitely think they have the talent and the depth [for a second team], but I think it's sort of our job to get NZ rugby league in the right place for young kids to want to play NRL and play for the New Zealand Warriors rather than going to play union," the prop said.

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"I feel like if we can get the club in a better space within the next five years, and get all those young kids to want to come and play NRL, then maybe that'd be the right thing to do – put another team in NZ."

Winger David Fusitu'a added: "[It would help with] developing talent, so boys would have not only the option of playing for the Warriors, but another option – wherever it might be.

"I feel like it falls on our shoulders to inspire kids. We want the kids in New Zealand to grow up wanting to play for our club.

"You can't keep all the players, but if we do well in the next few seasons then kids will just want to play for the Warriors, and if there's another [Kiwi] team, they'll want to play for that team too."

Leeson Ah-Mau shared similar thoughts.

"A lot of players try to come over to Australia because there's only one team in New Zealand at the moment and that's the Warriors," said the front-rower, who is returning from a pec injury.

"I guess if there's another team, a lot of the talent will stay in New Zealand. I think it'd be good."

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Playmaker Kodi Nikorima is well aware of the challenge New Zealand rugby league faces against union and reckons introducing a second NRL team to the country would be "beneficial".

"We've had the same conversation when we're playing for the New Zealand Kiwis about competing with the All Blacks," he said.

"The better we go as a group in the Kiwis squad, the more young talent will look at playing for the Kiwis instead of the All Blacks."

Captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who will join the Auckland Blues in the Super Rugby competition next year as he chases an All Blacks dream, said league has rusted-on support in his homeland.

"Rugby league is growing every day in New Zealand," he said.

"It's tough to compete with rugby and the All Blacks, but there are so many people when we travel around who are big rugby league fans or Warriors fans. To get another team there would be special."