The Toyota Cowboys’ NRL Auckland Nines squad put smiles on hundreds of faces and their autographs on just as many 2014 team posters when they visited the Glenora Bears in west Auckland this afternoon.
The home club of former North Queensland squad members Brian Jellick and Sione Faumuina turned on the hospitality for the Cowboys, who spent two hours meeting the fans, including some proud North Queensland members, in the build-up to this weekend’s tournament at Eden Park.
The highly successful visit included some coaching tips for the youngsters, plus Glenora’s under-nines squad, who will be part of the festivities at the Nines, had the chance to get their photo taken with their Cowboys counterparts.
Cowboys back-rower Jason Taumalolo, who has been tipped to be one of the players to watch in the inaugural tournament, was a huge hit with the kids, along with Kangaroos prop James Tamou.
Taumalolo played plenty of junior football in Auckland before making the move as a 14-year-old to Townsville.
“I can remember coming here and scoring a few tries,” he joked.
“They’ve also been a strong club and it’s good to see so many kids out here to see us today.”
The Cowboys’ visit was part of a "legacy" programme tied to Auckland Council's funding of the NRL Auckland Nines over the next five years, according to Ateed general manager tourism and destination Rachael Carroll.
"It's very much about taking the event out to the community,” she said.
“We want to inspire young people, grow future players and have people engage with the game in the future in a whole range of ways, be that playing, refereeing or volunteering."
The central city will host the 16 Nines teams tomorrow for the official tournament launch at Aotea Square.
The free event starts at 12.15pm, after a captains' and coaches' breakfast at the Pullman Hotel.