Your ticket to the Four Nations

17 September 2014

There are so many ways for you to catch the NZ Kiwis in action during the Four Nations …

The year's international rugby league extravaganza is rapidly approaching and diehard fans have plenty of options for showing their support for the Kiwis, both in New Zealand and across the ditch.

Top of the list would be the official supporters' trip to the doubleheader at Suncorp, hosted by none other than NZRL Patron Sir Peter "The Mad Butcher" Leitch.

Experience Group are taking the official Kiwis supporters tour to Brisbane for the Kiwis v Kangaroos/England v Samoa games on October 25, staying at Brisbane's Mantra Terrace Hotel.

Leaving Auckland Friday, you'll arrive in time to attend the 'behind-closed-doors' Kiwis training, known as the captain's run. That evening, there's an exclusive supporters function, where you can mix with some of the Butcher's personal friends, who also happen to be Kiwis legends

On Game Day, you will enjoy the match entertainment from the comfort of Suncorp's Gold seating, before returning to Auckland on Sunday.

Packages cost from $1325, but be in quickly - numbers are limited. Contact the Experience Group at travel@experiencegroup.co.nz or phone 09 304 0352.

Mai FM and The Rock FM radio stations are also offering lots of opportunities to win trips and tickets right up until the tournament kicks off. Keep an eye on their websites and an ear on their frequencies.

This week Mai is offering a trip for four to all four Kiwis games, including the double header on the opening weekend. Just register yourself and your mates, if all four answer the phone "Thanks Mai for sending me to the Four Nations", you can start packing your bags.

Check out their offer here.

Next week, The Rock FM, in conjunction with principal Kiwis sponsor Pirtek, will launch a competition for two to attend the Four Nations final in Wellington on November 15. Listen to the Morning Rumble for details.

Meanwhile, six lucky winners have secured trips for two to Brisbane for the opening games, courtesy of Fairfax Newspapers, Tourism and Events Queensland, Air New Zealand, Next Hotel and New Zealand Rugby League.

Those winners are Byron Wagstaff of Auckland, Neil Gordon of Palmerston North, Lew Kahui of Hawera, Juliet Hunter of Amberley, Matthew & Louise Down of Kapiti Coast and Emiel Fong of Wellington.

Stingrays smell blood in water

17 September 2014

Opportunities like this don't come along very often, but Counties Manukau coach Rod Ratu is trying to remain calm ahead of what could be a season-defining grand-final rematch against Pirtek NZRL National Premiership champions Akarana on Saturday.

With a loss already to their names this year, the titleholders teeter on the brink of elimination. Another defeat would be make their chances of taking a fifth straight crown very remote indeed.

And that must be a mouth-watering prospect for the Stingrays, who went unbeaten through the 2013 regular season, only to falter against their archrivals when it mattered.

Victory now would be a huge boost to their hopes of going all the way this time, but don't try telling Ratu that.

"This week could be our first big test," he says, after watching his side dispatch three opponents by an average of 55 points through the opening rounds.

"But, as staff, our focus is to stay focused on the things we need to do get the team out on the field and play well.

"Akarana have been in this position before and found a way to win. We're well aware that they will win the games they set their minds to, so we're not reading too much into this situation.

"Their history speaks for itself. We expect to see a very different team out there this week and a very different performance."

But Ratu also issued a veiled warning to the rest of the competition - we probably haven't seen the best of his players yet.

"We're travelling well, but it has required a bit of management from our part," he says. "Our boys are coming off a tough season in the Fox Memorial [club competition], and some of our top players and veterans have had to carry their teams through that.

"There are quite a few niggly injuries in the team and we've had to carefully monitor recovery, so we probably haven't started the campaign at 100%."

Fortunately, the Stingrays youngsters have proved more than capable of navigating through a schedule that has protected them from the top teams early on.

This encounter will end that soft run at just the right time, as they begin their build-up towards the post-season.

After their loss to Canterbury Bulls, Akarana weren't that convincing last week against Wellington Orcas and will need to lift their game against the rampant South Aucklanders at Ellerslie Domain.

Elsewhere, the unbeaten Bulls are at home to Wellington on Saturday, while the winless Northern Swords have perhaps their best remaining chance of success this season, when they host Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions.

 

PIRTEK NZRL NATIONAL PREMIERSHIP

Saturday, September 20

1.30pm     Akarana Falcons v Counties Manukau Stingrays,

Ellerslie Domain, Auckland

Stingrays: 1-George Edwards, 2-Raymond Taimale, 3-Lafu Feagaiga, 4-Filipine Jacob Aki, 5-Tomas Aoake, 6-Carlos Hotene, 7-William Stowers, 8-Sione Feao, 9-Jethro Friend, 10-Zion Tesese, 11-Dion Snell, 12-Jamel Hunt, 13-Eko Malu, 14-Terence Phillips, 15-Joseph Price, 16-Matasi Sollins, 17-Uila Aiolupo

Referee - Aaron Kesha                  Touch - Rochelle Tamarua & Chris McMillan

2.30pm     Canterbury Bulls v Wellington Orcas
Denton Park, Christchurch

Bulls: 1-Ken Tofilau, 2-Sioeli Otufangavalu, 3-Erwin Sauni, 4-Jack Mundy, 5-Will Tafua, 6-Toi Sepuloni, 7-Izic Placid, 20-JJ Smith, 9-Manu Weepu, 10-Chris Bamford, 11-Kyle Leka, 12-Corey Lawire, 13-Agaese Fiso, 14-Alani Kakoi, 15-Paradise Mann, 16-Paul Sauni, 17-John Tafua

Orcas: 1-Petera Rikiriki-Williams, 2-David Saumolia, 3-Ben Tuia, 4-Raymond Lesoa,
5-Tomasi Mocevakaca, 6-Michael O'Brien, 7-Anthony Utanga, 8-Chance Haua-Tauri,
9-Grayson Putu, 10-Robbie Mckenzie, 11-Mona Sio, 12-Robin Yates, 13-Nicholas Phillips, 14-Chozen Rameka, 15-Denzil Hokianga, 16-Joseph Apikotoa, 17-Paul Lemana

Referee - Tony Arnel                    Touch - Jason Wilson & Daryl Maitai


Sunday, September 21

2.30pm     Northern Swords v Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions

Toll Stadium, Whangarei

Swords: 1-Israel Tahere, 2-Waipu Stone, 3-Wiremu Te Iringa, 4-Ross McFarlane, 5-Tumoana Halkyard, 6-Daniel Fulop, 7-Dean Schreurs, 8-Chris   Apoua, 9 Joel Freeman, 10 Michael  Salase, 11-Adam Donaldson, 12-Manu Tuhoro, 13-Kelsin Harding, 14-Andre Lennox, 15-Jordan Hool, 16-Sharif Mangu, 17-Patrick Tane

Stallions: 1-Caleb Heke, 2-Isaac Robinson, 3-Mounga Molisi, 4-Riki Collier, 5-Hohepa Monk, 6-Johnson Peri, 7-Hayden Karena, 8-Hone Love-Henry, 9-Raureti Grace, 10-Shaquille Jakeman, 11-Terry Kopua, 12-Isaiah Cooper-Tetevano, 13-John Koko, 14-tbc,

15-Callin Tereu, 16-Mosese Mafi, 17-tbc

Referee - Kiko Puhipi Hibbs           Touch - Chris McMillan & Tane Kaiwai

Central Vipers bye

Kiwis, JKs squads grow

16 September 2014

Six players have been added to the extended NZ Kiwis squad, after the weekend's round of NRL playoffs.

Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney has named Josh Hoffman and Alex Glenn from the Brisbane Broncos to his training group, along with Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris, and the Bromwich brothers - Jesse and Kenny - from the Melbourne Storm.

Their inclusion brings the squad to 26, with several more candidates still alive in the competition finals and yet to be named. Cronulla Sharks wing Valentine Holmes, named last week, has withdrawn from consideration to chase his fortunes with the Junior Kangaroos.

The final selections for next month's Four Nations tournament will be made after the NRL Grand Final on October 5. The Kiwis begin their campaign against Australia at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on October 25.

The train-on squad so far is:

Gerard Beale (St George Illawarra Dragons), Adam Blair (Wests Tigers), Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, Fa'amanu Brown (Cronulla Sharks), Sosaia Feki (Cronulla Sharks), David Fusitu'a (Vodafone Warriors), Glenn, Harris, Siliva Havili (Vodafone Warriors), Hoffman, Konrad Hurrell (Vodaone Warriors), Shaun Johnson (Vodafone Warriors), Ngani Laumape (Vodafone Warriors), Thomas Leuluai (Vodafone Warriors), Simon Mannering (Vodafone Warriors), Suaia Matagi (Vodafone Warriors), Ben Matulino (Vodafone Warriors), Matt McIlwrick (Canberra Raiders), Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra Dragons), Proctor, Sauaso Sue (Wests Tigers), Brad Takairangi (Gold Coast Titans), Martin Taupau (Wests Tigers), Bodene Thompson (Wests Tigers), Manu Vatuvei (Vodafone Warriors)

Meanwhile, Joseph Manu, Taane Milne, Braden Uele (Sydney Roosters), Sam Manuleleua and Tulsa Saumamao (South Sydney Rabbitohs) join the Junior Kiwis group, preparing for their test against the Junior Kangaroos on October 18.

The squad is:

 

Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm), Herman Ese'ese (Canterbury Bulldogs), Jahrome Hughes (Gold Coast Titans), Sione Katoa (Penrith Panthers), Manu, Manuleleua, Milne, Una Mohi (Melbourne Storm), Niua Puaka (Melbourne Storm), Saumamao, Renouf To'omaga (Canterbury Bulldogs), Uele

Kiwi Ferns join Nines party

16 September 2014

When Kiwi Ferns star Sarina Fiso attended the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines this year, six-year-old son Luke scored a prized souvenir - the trademark headgear belonging to Penrith five-eighth Jamie Soward.

"We ordered gold tickets that got us seats by the players' tunnel," recalls Fiso. "It was a great experience and we were looking forward to going again next year."

But the veteran international will have an added incentive to attend next January/February, now that the NZ national women's team have been confirmed for a televised three-game nines series against their Australian rivals as part of the 2015 event.

The women's game enjoyed centre-stage at the Auckland Nines draw in Sydney today, with Fiso (32) and Jillaroos counterpart Maddie Studdon assisting with the ceremony.

Health and fitness allowing, she is a fairly good bet to be out in the middle of the Eden Park, doing battle with the Aussies.

"I never dreamed we would get this kind of opportunity, especially as part of an NRL tournament, with so many of the game's top players involved," she says.

"It's like a dream come true. When I heard, I was overcome with excitement at the thought of playing in that packed stadium.

"We don't get too many chances to come together as a team for international fixtures, so the girls will be preparing hard to make sure we make the most of this one."

Despite their relatively low profile on the sporting landscape, the Kiwi Ferns have put together a proud record, based largely on their own hard work and initiative. Moving forward, those efforts will be supported by the NZ Rugby League high performance programme.

The Ferns won three World Cups from 2000-08 and only lost their grip on that trophy when they fell to Australia in last year's final at Leeds. Fiso has been a part of the last two campaigns, after debuting for the team in 2006.

Those two sides will meet again in 13-a-side action on November 9, when they play a curtain-raiser to the Australia v Toa Samoa Four nations clash in Wollongong, and inclusion in the Nines may be a catalyst to regular trans-Tasman competition.

"Opportunities like these will really help us grow the women's game in New Zealand," says Fiso. "Hopefully, we can inspire more girls to take up the game and continue the tradition we've begun."

Today's draw placed the hometown Vodafone Warriors in a pool that also includes Wests Tigers, Canberra Raiders and Gold Coast Titans, none of whom made the NRL playoffs this season.

A feature of the draw is the renaming of pools after Auckland tourist landmarks - Rangitoto, Waiheke, Hunua & Piha.

The men's pools are:

Rangitoto - Parramatta Eels, Manly Sea Eagles, Newcastle Knights & St George Illawarra Dragons

Waiheke - Melbourne Storm, North Queensland Cowboys, Penrith Panthers & South Sydney Rabbitohs

Hunua - Wests Tigers, Vodafone Warriors, Canberra Raiders & Gold Coast Titans

Piha - Sydney Roosters, Brisbane Broncos, Canterbury Bulldogs & Cronulla Sharks

O'Brien named varsities coach

16 September 2014

The New Zealand Universities and Tertiary Students Rugby League Council has named Kenny O'Brien as its new national team coach until March 2015.

After a playing career that included English second division side Huddersfield, along with Canterbury in the South Island, O'Brien switched to coaching in 2003, steering Canterbury and Wellington, along with Linwood, Petone and the Victoria University Hunters clubs.

O'Brien, who is currently assistant coach of the Wellington Orcas, is also actively involved in the New Zealand Rugby League high performance programme at 16s and 18s levels, and is also assisting the Wellington Rugby League with their coaching and development programmes.

NZUTSRL chairman Rodney Moore said O'Brien's selection into the role was done through a robust and transparent process by the council, including consultation with NZRL.

"We were very pleased with the calibre and quality of the coaches who applied, and we are keen to work with the NZRL to offer university and tertiary rugby league as a pathway for players, coaches and team support staff.

"Our focus is to put a programme in place to take us through to the next Student World Cup in 2017," Moore says. "Our first game will be as the curtain-raiser to the Kiwis v Great Britain test in Dunedin on November 8, when we take on the South Island.

"This seems somehow fitting, as the city is the spiritual home of university rugby league in this country, due to having both the first university club, which turns 60 years this year, and being the first venue where an NZU side played in 1967."

Meanwhile, O'Brien (50) says he was excited at the opportunity to coach the NZ University and Tertiary Students team.

"I am aware of the history of university rugby league in this country and am aware that quite a bit of work will be done for me to select a team from students  throughout New Zealand."

Due to the tight time frame, O'Brien says he will rely on his network of coaches from throughout the country to tell him who would be worthy of making the squad from more than 50 player nominations received.

"We are in camp just three days before the South Island match and, like them, we will not have much time to build up to anything fancy," he says. "

Instead, I will be looking to have a simple game plan, based around the players that I will have available, which could include 10 that are still studying and who travelled to England last year with the New Zealand Student World Cup side."

O'Brien's appointment will also take in the proposed New Zealand Universities and Tertiary Student's national nines tournament in late January 2015, which would be used to help identify players for the future.

"We are looking to re-establish our links with alumni, and build up a network of past university and tertiary people from around the country who can contribute to what we believe will be an exciting future ahead for us," he says.