High school students in Kawerau were star struck today with the arrival of rugby player Sonny Bill Williams and Joe Royal.
The visit was to help the Māori rugby development programme by New Zealand Rugby.
Today was about engaging the local youth and that's exactly what Sonny Bill Williams and Joe Royal did.
Sonny Bill Williams says, "It's just important to show that me and Joe that plays for the Māori All Blacks, you know we come from similar situations, we grew up with pretty much nothing but we still managed to make it in life."
Joe Royal says, "It's about giving back to my people and helping out. Sonny and I have been privileged enough to be in the Rugby scene, got to travel places and coming here, we hope to inspire young Māori kid's, boy and girls."
Secondary students from schools in the area got to meet the rugby stars and students from Tarawera High School say the surprise visit has lifted the morale of the school.
Levi Whata says, "This is really huge for Kawerau because Sonny Bill and Joe Royal are famous. Both are really up there in the rugby world."
Principal of Tarawera High School, Helen Tuhoro says, "It puts Kawerau on the map. It shows that we are interested in our rangatahi for the future, so they are our future leaders for Kawerau. They are the future leaders from a rugby point of view."
Through opportunities like this, NZRU hopes to develop rugby in schools and rural communities.