WHILE Pat Preston was in his air-conditioned corporate box ordering Uber Eats, his NRL development officer counterparts were unofficially kicking off the rugby league season.
The Hastings NRL Nines are the unofficial start to the year for schoolboy footy with most schools in the area fielding teams in the 13s, 14s, 15s, 16.5 and 18-years divisions.
The competition has been running for more than 20 years and Preston said it was good to "look out and see kids playing footy".
"It's been a long-running competition; it would be the mid-90s when it started because I played when I was at school so it's at least 20 years, maybe longer," he said.
More than 30 teams competed in the day with schools from Kempsey, Wauchope, Camden Haven and Port Macquarie participating.
"We'd have close to about 400 kids here because they're squads of about 14 or 15," Preston said.
"On days like today it's a great opportunity for kids to come out and try the sport because nine on the field means there's plenty of space.
"For kids who might not usually play attritional 13-a-side, it's a great way for them to come out and have a taste of the sport.
"If they're not playing, they might come out and decide to join up to their junior rugby league club."
Preston admitted the day was more about enjoyment and growing the game although there were winners crowned at the end of the day.
"The schools enjoy it because it's a good, fun day, it's not too serious and we will have winners, but it's more about coming out and giving kids an opportunity," he said.
"The big thing is getting lots of teams here; some of the schools who struggle to come to our other days when it's full numbers are on board with this."
Next month the girls will take to the field with the annual league tag gala day to be held on April 4.
"It's the equivalent of this one, but for the girls," Preston said.
"That will be in Port and then next term we'll have the 13-a-side competitions happening."
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