27 May 2022

The mighty Black and White is back.

To celebrate, NZRL is gifting the ultimate die-hard NZ fan + nine of their friends and whānau with a corporate table at the June 25th NZ v Tonga Test Double Header at Mt Smart Stadium.


Seem like a bit of you? Here’s how to enter:

Show us you’re the loudest and proudest New Zealand supporter there is.

Be as creative or detailed as you like; send us a video, photos or stories; we want to see it all.


How to enter:

Comment on our post who you’d take.

Post your entry or direct message us on NZRL socials – @nzrugbyleague (Insta) or @nzkiwis (FB).


Email your entry to [email protected]


The competition closes Thursday 9th June.


The Prize

  • Enjoy the NZ v Tonga doubleheader from Mt Smart’s East Lounge.
  • A three-course plated meal (set entrée, alternate drop main, set dessert) and post-match supper.
  • Pre and post match lounge entertainment and giveaways
  • Additional beverages are available via a cash bar or pre-arranged bar tab.
  • Travel and accommodation not included.


Celebrate the return of rugby league to Aotearoa in style with a prize valued at nearly $3000.

Kiwi and Kiwi Ferns fans, show us you’re the loudest and proudest there is. It’s been too long, we’ve missed you.



27 May 2022

as seen on nzherald.co.nz

Rugby league legends Jerry Seuseu and Ali Lauiti’iti are tackling mental health in young Māori and Pacific Islanders head-on.

The two ex-NRL stars are ambassadors for the New Zealand Rugby League Wellbeing Programme.

They travel the country talking at grassroots rugby league clubs to players, friends, coaches and anyone who wants to participate in the It Ain’t Weak To Speak campaign.

Seuseu told the Herald when he was playing professional rugby league for the Warriors, Kiwis and in the UK for Wigan, asking for help to deal with mental health issues was frowned upon.

“We were basically told to harden up and do your best,” Seuseu recalls.

“It wasn’t very fashionable to talk about mental health and people had to deal with it quietly. Fortunately for Ali and myself, we had a good Christian upbringing and that certainly helped us in our careers.

“That’s what it was like back then, but we have moved on and we encourage our young people to use their voices and be heard.

“Our statistics tell us mental health [challenges are] everywhere and our youth are suffering the most. It’s no weakness to reach out if you are struggling and not in a good space.”

Having hung up their playing boots a few years ago, Seuseu and Lauiti’iti want to give back to the community that supported them throughout their long and illustrious careers. They both still live in and around South Auckland.

Seuseu played 209 matches – 37 for Counties-Manukau (1995-1996), 132 for the Warriors (1997-2004) and 40 in the UK Super League for the Wigan Warriors (2005-2006). He also represented Samoa four times in 2000 and the Kiwis 11 times, from 2001-2004.

Lauiti’iti was one of the most gifted players to ever pull on a Warriors or New Zealand rugby league jersey, because of his athleticism and skills.

He was a 115-game Warrior from 1998-2003, played 200 games for UK Super League club Leeds from 2004-2011 and also for Wakefield Trinity in 94 matches from 2012-2015.

Seuseu said communities face their own unique dilemmas but youth issues are not dissimilar around the motu (nation).

“We are finding that wherever we go to speak with youth, each area has its own unique issues.

“Our team spoke in Invercargill and the group wanted to talk about alcohol and driving, because they had a tragedy a few weeks prior involving teenagers,” Seuseu said.

“There was a group of 60 and all of them knew those involved and were trying to come to terms with the accident and make sense of their loss.

“We also spoke with a group from Manurewa and people told us they might be a difficult group. But we gave them the opportunity and they were real conversant on how they felt.”

Seuseu said giving teenagers coping strategies and mechanisms was a big part of the programme, and it was rewarding work.

“We get a lot out of doing this as well,” Seuseu said.

The NZRL and the Warriors are working alongside Le Va, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) whose vision is to support whānau and communities for better health and wellbeing outcomes.

“In Auckland, the youth we speak to are more worried about their identity, social media and what is affecting them,” Seuseu said.

“Sometimes the conversations with youth are awkward but they have to be had.

“Ali and I try to talk with youth in a safe and engaging way, sometimes we use our PI humour, and that always brings a laugh,” Seuseu said.

Lauiti’iti said talking with youth about suicide was confronting but had to be discussed for the sake of our young people.

“We try to equip our youth with tools to deal with suicide, and although it is hard and confronting we have to speak about it,” Lauiti’iti said.

“But it’s also having the courage to step out and help out if you see one of your mates, or you, are not in the right space.”

In Auckland, 80 per cent of league players are Māori or Pasifika. Outside of Tāmaki Makaurau, 80 per cent of rugby league players are Māori.



If it is an emergency and you or someone else is at risk, call 111.


For counselling and support:

Lifeline: Call 0800 543 354 or text 4357 (HELP)

Suicide Crisis Helpline: Call 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Need to talk? Call or text 1737

Depression helpline: Call 0800 111 757 or text 4202

For children and young people:

Youthline: Call 0800 376 633 or text 234

What’s Up: Call 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm) or webchat (11am to 10.30pm)

The Lowdown: Text 5626 or webchat

For help with specific issues:

Alcohol and Drug Helpline: Call 0800 787 797

Anxiety Helpline: Call 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)

OutLine: Call 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE) (6pm-9pm)

Safe to talk (sexual harm): Call 0800 044 334 or text 4334

All services are free and available 24/7 unless otherwise specified.

For more information and support, talk to your local doctor, hauora, community mental health team, or counselling service. The Mental Health Foundation has more helplines and service contacts on its website.

26 May 2022

as seen on NRL.com

A decade after savouring premiership glory with Manly as a couple of fresh-faced youngsters, Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans will share another significant moment at AAMI Park on Thursday when the resilient and respected ‘Foz’ plays his 250th NRL game.

Foran was 21 and Cherry-Evans 22 when they teamed up in the halves to take the Sea Eagles to grand final glory in 2011, the start of a five-year partnership that was split when the Kiwi five-eighth headed to the Eels in 2016.

Stints at the Warriors (2017) and Bulldogs (2018-20) followed before Foran found his way ‘home’ to Brookvale last season to reunite with Cherry-Evans, who has gone on to become Sea Eagles royalty with 272 games in maroon and white.

Since that emotional night at ANZ Stadium in 2011, Foran has played 191 games, his career derailed by serious shoulder, hamstring, back and ankle injuries, while DCE has added 245 games to his tally.

Foran freely admits there were times he feared he’d never make it anywhere near 250 games, but his love for the game and the contest kept him going.

“I’ve had plenty of tough spots and a number of times I wondered whether I’d be able to keep playing so it’s always nice to pick yourself up and be able to keep going and that is something I’ve prided myself on,” Foran said.

“I’m very fortunate that I’m able to play this great game every single week and I want to play for as long as I can.

“The mental and physical challenges are both as tough as one another and at times go hand in hand. I’m just glad I have been able to learn along the way and build plenty of resilience.

“Deep down I love rugby league. I enjoy the competitive side and I enjoy trying to push my body as hard as I can and for as long as I can, and at the end of the day if you’ve got that will then you’re able to keep going.”

Given his injury history and the fact he was closing in on his 31st birthday, many questioned the wisdom of Manly taking a punt on Foran in 2021.

When the dust had settled on the Sea Eagles’ season, the reward had far outweighed the risk, a fully fit Foran producing 11 try assists and 18 line break assists in 25 matches – the first time since 2014 he had played more than 20 games in a season.

“I never thought I would come back to Manly after my first stint here and then being able to come back and get the opportunity to play here for the last couple of years has been a dream come true,” Foran said.

“It’s pretty cool to be able to play my 250th in these colours – it means a lot to me.”

In a week where the season-ending injury to superstar fullback Tom Trbojevic has dominated the headlines and his own headspace, Cherry-Evans was happy to take time out to pay tribute to milestone man Foran.

“As a mate, and thinking about the journey he has been on, I can’t wait to be out there and support him this week and hopefully get a win,” Cherry-Evans said.

“As a team-mate you want to make sure you go out and make these milestones a special night for them.

DCE talks Turbo injury and Foran’s milestone,

“It’s a night Kieran and his family will never forget and we do have that added motivation to go out there and play better for someone who is loved at this club.

“We are really clear on what’s coming down there [in Melbourne] this week.

“Craig Bellamy will have his team bouncing off walls ready to get into us but as much as we have acknowledged where their season is at and what they’ll be like I feel like we’ll be a little bit more desperate and emotionally we’ve got a bit more to play on this weekend – one of our most loved team-mates playing his 250th.”

Apart from the motivation to rip in for Foran, there’s another much loved Manly man who’ll have his team-mates walking taller on Thursday night and that’s Jorge Taufua.

The 30-year-old winger is set to play his first NRL game since suffering a ruptured Achilles in round 17 of the 2020 season and Cherry-Evans said the return of the renowned hitman will lift spirits after a tough week.

“Jorge’s return is something the boys will really get around. He’s had a hell of a story himself to come back from injury after injury,” Cherry-Evans said.

“He’s my longest team-mate and we’ve built up a great relationship.

“Just the way he goes about his business – he never asks for help, never wants anyone’s handouts or freebies, he’s just someone who consistently works hard and wants to help the team out where he can.

“To do an Achilles at that age is tough but he has worked so hard and done a fantastic job to get his body right.”

As if Manly needed any added motivation to try and take down old foe Melbourne, they have it in spades with Foran and Taufua – two resilient and respected warriors who don’t the meaning of the word quit.

International Rugby League returns to Headingley Stadium with a bang this Autumn

After nearly three years without top class international Rugby League in England, fans can enjoy a feast of Rugby League action at Headingley Stadium this Autumn kicking off with a historic clash between Leeds Rhinos and New Zealand on Saturday 8th October, kick off 6pm.

The unique clash will continue a rich tradition of games between the two sides that dates back to the first ever touring side, the All Golds back in 1907. The match will be 115 years since Leeds and the All Golds met at Headingley for the first time on 26th October 1907. Three months later, Rugby League’s first ever Test was also hosted by Headingley with the Northern Union winning 14-6 on 25th January 1908.

The match will be a celebration of Rugby League with the club aiming to work with every community club in the region to provide special offers for all those involved in the community game to make it a night to remember at Headingley.

The game is also a repeat of an unforgettable night back in 2015 when Leeds played the Kiwis in front of a sell-out crowd at Headingley prior to the £45 million redevelopment of the stadium.

The match will be a vital warm up game for Michael Maguire’s side ahead of the Rugby League World Cup when they also play Ireland at Headingley in the pool stages in October.

The current team will be defending New Zealand honour against Leeds with only the 1972 tourists having lost to Leeds in twelve previous clashes between the sides dating back to 1907.

Commenting on the clash with New Zealand Chief Executive Gary Hetherington commented, “To have been granted a game against one of our great Test playing nations is a huge honour and a privilege for Leeds Rhinos. International Rugby League is the pinnacle of our sport and it has been sorely missed over the last three years due to the global pandemic.

“Our home at Headingley is intrinsically linked to the international game for over a century and I believe this game is a fantastic way to celebrate that history but also look ahead to a thrilling home World Cup here in England.

“For the first time, the men’s, women’s and wheelchair World Cups will be played at the same time with Headingley hosting Australia and Fiji on the opening day of the men’s tournament and the opening two games of the women’s tournament.

“Ourselves and the Kiwis have a long shared history and this will be the chance to write a new chapter.  Our links with New Zealand include the many great players who have played for us down the years like Bert Cook, Dean Bell, Brent Webb and Ali Lauitiiti from New Zealand. It is also important for us as a club to give our next generation of players unique opportunities to grow and test themselves. One aspect of our game we have lost in the summer era is the chance for club players to test themselves against touring nations and this is a wonderful opportunity for our squad.

“Our last meeting back in 2015 was a real ‘I was there’ moment with a number of former players making guest appearances including Ali Lauitiiti and Adrian Morley playing their final games as part of the occasion and I am sure we will have some surprises in store nearer the time. I would also like to thank Treble Group UK for their role in facilitating the game,” added Hetherington.

Greg Peters, NZRL CEO, “To face the Rhinos at Headingly to kick start our World Cup campaign is special.

“The match celebrates our return to the Northern Hemisphere after an international rugby league hiatus while also commemorating the long shared history between New Zealand and Leeds that holds a special place in the hearts of Kiwi fans and legends.

“Together we celebrate a new era of rugby league, a crucial first stop on our World Cup Waka and the perfect ground for our current and future Kiwis to pave their way against some of the Northern Hemisphere’s best.”

Leeds Rhinos 2022 Members will have a priority period to purchase a ticket for themselves and a guest from 10am (tickets.therhinos.co.uk) and 10.30am (over the phone – 0371 423 1315) on Monday 23rd May until midnight on Sunday 5th June.

After this time and subject to availability, any remaining tickets will be made available for general sale from 10am (tickets.therhinos.co.uk) and 10.30am (over the phone – 0371 423 1315) on Monday 6th June. Fans can also purchase tickets from our Leeds Rhinos Club Shop at Headingley Stadium. CLICK HERE for our opening hours (may vary over Bank Holidays – please ensure you check the website before travelling).

During the Member’s priority period Rhinos 2022 Season Members will be able to purchase their usual seated or standing membership position and Flexi and Supporter Members will have the chance to purchase positions from whatever else is available.

Rhinos 2022 Seated Season Members who are purchasing tickets for a guest may need to move position if we cannot provide a seat near to their usual position.

Advance ticket prices will start from £24 for Adults, from £16 for Concessions (Senior Citizens 65 & over, Students, Under 21s and Disabled**) and from £12 for Juniors (aged 16 & under)

**Disabled supporters are entitled to a free companion ticket when valid proof is provided

 If there are any tickets remaining on match day, ticket prices will increase by £3.

April 28 2022

After over two years without Test match rugby league, New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is proud to announce, the international game is finally returning home.

Saturday 25 June will see Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium play host as the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns line up against Pacific rivals Tonga in a blockbuster double-header worthy of the wait.

The rugby league spectacle coincides with Matariki – the Māori New Year, falling on the inaugural public holiday weekend. The long-awaited international clashes will celebrate the return home to Aotearoa and the re-uniting of players with their New Zealand fans and communities.

Fourteen years have passed since the Kiwi Ferns faced Tonga women, where they earned a 40 point victory at the 2008 Rugby League World Cup. Both nations will now meet again off the back of 2020 victories; the rookie lead Kiwi Ferns earned a 28-8 win over Fetu Samoa, while Tonga women had a dominant 66-8 performance over Niue.

As both teams take the field come June 25, NZRL aims to achieve a new world record crowd attendance for a women’s rugby league match, which currently sits at 18,000.

Pre pandemic, the No.1 ranked Kiwis were hot off a series win against Great Britain and a 34-14 victory against their Tongan rivals in 2019. Despite their loss to the Kiwis, Tonga achieved a historic 16-12 upset over the Kangaroos in the same year.

After a two year hiatus, Saturday 25 June will see the return of arguably the biggest rivalry in international rugby league, as both nations will look to assert their dominance ahead of the October Rugby League World Cup.

NZRL CEO Greg Peters says this has been a long time coming.

“What a great feeling to finally have our Ferns and Kiwis back on the park, and even better at home. To celebrate Matariki weekend with an international Test double header that unites our fans and communities in celebration is special.”

Peters adds, “We have been working with the NRL for some time now to produce an international weekend on both sides of the Tasman during the origin window. June 25 will also see Samoa play Cook Islands and PNG face Fiji in Campbelltown before Ampol State of Origin the following day.

“We encourage everyone to make their way to Mt Smart come June 25 to break the crowd attendance record for a women’s Test and celebrate the return of international rugby league to New Zealand shores after some challenging years.”

Tonga Head Coach Kristian Woolf says, “We are excited about the opportunity to represent the proud nation of Tonga for the first time since the successful campaign against Australia and Great Britain back in 2019.

“This opportunity has been a long time coming, so we can’t wait to face the Kiwis again. This will be an important match for us as we look to reunite the team and also give some of our young players a chance to represent their country ahead of the World Cup,” Woolf concludes.

Hon. Poasi Mataele Tei, Acting Prime Minister of Tonga, says, “This is very exciting news for Tonga, and we welcome the opportunity with open hearts. It has been a tough ride for all Tongans around the world, especially the last three months, but this match between New Zealand and Tonga will certainly uplift Tongan spirits as we look forward to another successful World Cup campaign in England.”

Auckland Unlimited Head of Major Events, Chris Simpson, says the excitement’s building in Tāmaki Makaurau for what will be a fantastic event.

“Aucklanders are avid rugby league supporters, and to have New Zealand and Tonga play at Mt Smart will be exhilarating,” says Simpson.

“We encourage league fans from across New Zealand to make Mt Smart and Tāmaki Makaurau their destinations of choice this Matariki long weekend – it’s going to be huge!”

International Rugby League Chair Troy Grant says, “It is great to see international rugby league back on the menu in the Southern Hemisphere, and what a blockbuster to go with. I think the whole world is waiting to see clashes such as the Kiwis against Tonga as it’s the appetiser for what is to come at the World Cup and then on a regular basis from 2023 onwards.”




Te Hokinga Mai | Toe Foki Mai

Saturday, 25 June Mt Smart Stadium Auckland

3:10pm NZT Kiwi Ferns v Tonga

5:20pm NZT Kiwis v Tonga

LIVE on Sky Sport 4 and Channel 9 for Australian viewers.

Tickets on sale Tuesday from Ticketmaster, NZRL to release ticket link in the coming days.


21 April 2022

New Zealand Rugby League is mourning the passing of Kiwi #346 and former Auckland fullback Roy Moore, who toured Australia in 1952, and Great Britain and France with the 1955-56 Kiwis, representing his country in five Tests.

The Mount Albert goalkicker played four tour matches in Australia in ’52, slotting a total of 20 goals against Newcastle, Central Queensland, Central West Queensland and Toowoomba. Fellow Aucklander – and future New Zealand Team of the Century fullback – Des White occupied the custodian role for the Tests.

The following season, Moore was one of several Aucklanders who guested for the American All-Stars team during their 1953 tour Down Under.

With White unavailable, Moore was called up to the Test team for the two matches against the touring French side in 1955. Moore scored all New Zealand’s points on debut via a try and three goals, but the visitors won the opening Test 19-9 at Carlaw Park. He kicked another two goals as the Kiwis squared the series with an 11-6 victory at the same venue.

Chosen as one of two fullbacks (with Otahuhu’s Dick Haggie) for the Kiwis’ Northern Hemisphere tour later that year, Moore featured in the 25-6 first-Test loss to Great Britain in Manchester. He also played in the second and third Tests against France.

Moore turned out in another 10 tour games in England and France, scoring 47 points from three tries and 19 goals.

A regular at ex-Kiwi reunions in recent years, Moore will be dearly missed by the local rugby league community. NZRL extends its sincere condolences to his family and friends.


Not much more than a month after mourning the death of Pasifika trailblazer Olsen Filipaina, rugby league has lost the original Polynesian pioneer ex-Kiwi prop Oscar Danielson, who has passed away in Wollongong aged 83.

Apia-born Danielson, one of New Zealand’s original exports to what was then known as the New South Wales Rugby League premiership, was the first Samoa-born player to play in the competition.

He signed with the Newtown Jets for the 1970 season, the same year fellow Kiwi front rower Bill Noonan started his 196-game Sydney premiership career with Canterbury Bankstown.

Other Kiwis followed soon after, notably Eddie Heatley (North Sydney), Bernie Lowther (Canterbury Bankstown) and Henry Tatana (Canterbury Bankstown), who all commanded interest from Sydney clubs in the wake of the Kiwis’ all-conquering deeds in 1971.

In making the move the players forfeited their chances of playing international rugby league, the signing clubs paying the New Zealand Rugby League a transfer fee for the player.

During those times numerous Kiwis signed to play in the lower grades in Sydney or with New South Wales country or Queensland clubs, among them Ron Ackland, Bruce Castle, Eddie Moore, Jock Butterfield, Bill Snowden, Mel Cooke, Graham Kennedy, Bill Deacon, Bill Burgoyne, Doug Gailey and Robert Orchard.

Danielson made 47 appearances and scored four tries for Newtown from 1970-1972 before becoming player-coach with the Corrimal Cougars in Wollongong in 1973, guiding the club to premiership victory the following year.

A key player for Marist in the 1960s, Danielson played for Auckland and also for New Zealand Māori before making his Test debut as Kiwi #454 in 1967 and going on to represent New Zealand at the 1968 Rugby League World Cup.

Legendary coach Harry Bath brought the ball-playing prop Danielson to Newtown, signing him in an Auckland hotel bar.

February 12th 2022

as seen on NRL.com

A captain’s knock from Joe Tapine has spearheaded the Māori All Stars to a 16-10 win over the Indigenous All Stars at CommBank Stadium on Saturday night.

Tapine revelled in the responsibility handed to him by Maori coach David Kidwell, scoring a crucial try and running for 125 metres with seven tackle breaks.

The match was played in heavy rain but it did nothing to detract from the intensity as both packs muscled up early before the Indigenous All Stars struck first through Jesse Ramien.

The try was set up by a rampaging David Fifita, who busted the Maori defence wide open down the right and found Ramien on the inside for 6-0. 

Sensational lead-up work by middle forwards James Fisher-Harris and Joe Tapine led to the Maoris’ opening four-pointer to the elusive Kodi Nikorima in the 25th minute and eight minutes later they had a second through Esan Marsters.

Indigenous hooker Reuben Cotter looked certain to level the scores at 10-10 on the 50-minute mark but lost the ball as he stretched out to plant it down. Three minutes later Josh Curran also went close for the Indigenous side when he put his body on the line trying to ground a Nicho Hynes grubber but desperate Maori defence denied him.

The Maori stretched their lead to 16-6 when Tapine produced some neat footwork close to the line and slammed the ball down but exciting young Dragon Tyrell Sloan closed the gap again when he scored off another pinpoint Hynes grubber.

A mistake by Morgan Harper handed the Indigenous side one last chance to salvage a draw but a desperation defensive play by Reimis Smith denied Laurie Daley’s side.

Match Snapshot

Players from both sides blew off some steam in the opening quarter as tensions boiled over on two occasions. The All Stars game is always high on emotion and right from the haka and the war cry through to the final whistle the contest was a beauty and the perfect way to launch the season. 

  • Jordan Rapana was placed on report in the 13th minute for a shoulder charge on David Fifita and then found himself in the sin bin for a second shoulder charge on the stroke of quarter-time. He was joined in the bin by Indigenous forward Andrew Fifita who was marched for running in to join the melee. Jesse Ramien became the third player binned when he committed a professional foul in the final quarter.
  • Kenny Bromwich showed why he’ll be a sensational pick up for new boys the Dolphins with a superb offload to Patrick Herbert who sent it on to Esan Marsters for a Maori try.
  • In his comeback game from a career-threatening throat injury, Andrew Fifita equalled Joel Thompson’s record of seven appearances for the Indigenous All Stars. 
  • Will Smith was forced from the field in the third quarter for a HIA and did not return for the Indigenous All Stars.
  • Patrick Herbert produced a stormer for the Maori to bury the demons of his fateful decision not to pass in the dying seconds of last year’s final against the Roosters.

Play of the Game

David Fifita was at his damaging best in the opening quarter, leaving Patrick Herbert, Dylan Walker and Chanel Harris-Tavita in his wake as he raced 45 metres up field and sent a perfectly timed pass inside for Jesse Ramien to open the scoring. A nice pass from new Shark Nicho Hynes put Fifita into space and the 20-year-old made a fearsome sight as he powered down the right side.



What’s Next

The NRL season is under a month away and preparations ramp up with a series of trial games starting next Friday with a double-header at Leichhardt Oval featuring the Roosters taking on the Raiders followed by the Sea Eagles against Wests Tigers. On Saturday the Storm and Warriors will raise funds for the victims of the Tongan volcanic eruptions and tsunami in January when they square off at Casey Fields in Melbourne, while the Cowboys and Rabbitohs play in Cairns and the Titans face the Broncos on the Gold Coast. On Sunday it’s a double-header at CommBank Stadium with the Panthers v Sharks followed by Eels v Dragons and rounding out a huge weekend of trials the Knights meet the Bulldogs in Newcastle on Monday.

The rugby league community in New Zealand and worldwide is mourning the loss of one of the Kiwis’ greatest and most unique players, a Pasifika and Māori sporting icon and a beloved character, following the passing of Olsen Filipaina, aged 64.

Filipaina was admitted to hospital with a stomach infection on January 13, exacerbating a long-standing kidney problem. He died on February 10th in Sydney, surrounded by family.

‘The Big O’ scored 108 points in 29 Tests for the Kiwis from 1977-86 and was inducted as a NZRL Legend of League in 2007. But the bare figures and accolades tell only a small part of the blockbusting, trail-blazing centre/five-eighth’s story

Filipaina’s career is framed by his world-beating performances for New Zealand against Great Britain in 1984 and Australia in 1985, but his decade on the international stage is strewn with crowd-pleasing highlights. Meanwhile, idol status at grassroots club level with a pair of Hawks outfits – Auckland’s Mangere East and Ryde-Eastwood in Sydney – bookended eight seasons in the NSWRL premiership, where his brilliance flashed brightly but infrequently, with crusty Australian coaches unable to effectively harness and utilise his dynamic talents.

Born in Kaikohe to a Samoan father and Māori (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hāmoa) mother, Olsen moved to South Auckland with his family as a young boy and rose through fledgling Mangere East’s ranks. An inspired spectator in 1971 as New Zealand powered to a stunning 24-3 victory over Australia at a muddy Carlaw Park, a ground he would dominate on countless occasions over the next 15 years, Filipaina captained the Schoolboy Kiwis the following season.

Filipaina’s explosive performances and prolific tryscoring for Mangere East garnered a debut for Auckland in 1976. A Kiwis call-up quickly followed – just a month after his 20th birthday – at the 1977 World Cup, selected at centre for the matches against Australia and Great Britain, as well as featuring in Auckland’s remarkable ‘Grand Slam’ achievement, where the provincial side beat Australia, Great Britain and France in the space of 17 days.

On a 1978 tour of Australia that produced few highlights, Filipaina’s blistering form was a vivid silver lining. He starred against the incomparable centre pairing of Steve Rogers and Mick Cronin, before scoring three tries in the Kiwis’ 30-21 victory in their maiden Test match against Papua New Guinea at Port Moresby. The tyro was named New Zealand’s Player of the Year.

Filipaina’s genius lit up the 1979 season, scoring a staggering 261 points for Mangere East (25 tries, 93 goals), nine tries in 10 games for Auckland, and a try and five goals in the Kiwis’ series loss to the touring Great Britain Lions.

Boasting remarkable pace and agility for a player with such an imposing frame, a trademark bump that rebuffed myriad defenders and a crafty kitbag of skills – included a phenomenal penchant for a chip-and-regather – Filipaina was an attacking freak. Stadium-shaking defence somewhat belied his gentle, shy nature but completed the picture of one of the era’s great entertainers and game-breakers.

Balmain belatedly lured Filipaina across the Tasman in 1980. He spent five seasons with the Tigers, moved to Eastern Suburbs for a one-year stint in 1985 and played two seasons at North Sydney. Filipaina played 109 first-grade games (scoring 21 tries and 128 goals) but was regularly relegated to reserve grade, a convenient scapegoat for under-pressure and impatient coaches ill-equipped to let his talents flourish.

Injury kept Filipaina out of the 1983 Test series against Australia, which included a famous Kiwis upset at Brisbane’s Lang Park. Despite being stuck in reserve grade at Balmain for several weeks midway through 1984, New Zealand coach Graham Lowe had no hesitation in picking Filipaina for the home series against Great Britain. Playing five-eighth at Test level for the first time, the 27-year-old terrorised the Lions. His thundering runs, deft ball-playing and the tourists’ tactic of double- and triple-teaming the leviathan in the No.6 jersey opened up repeated opportunities for his three-quarters Fred Ah Kuoi, James Leuluai, Dean Bell and Dane O’Hara, who between them scored 10 of the Kiwis’ 12 tries in a 3-0 whitewash. Filipaina added 12 goals and was man-of-the-match in the third Test.

Another stint in reserve grade with the Roosters in 1985 set the scene for Filipaina’s finest hour. He was man-of-the-match in the first two Tests against Australia in Sydney and Auckland – both won by the Kangaroos courtesy of last-gasp John Ribot tries – including a memorable try-assist and four-pointer of his own in the series opener.

Fourteen years after witnessing the Kiwis’ demolition of Australia first-hand as a 14-year-old at Carlaw Park, Filipaina led a drought-breaking – and equally emphatic and iconic – defeat of the green-and-golds at the same venue in the third Test of the ’85 rubber. He produced two audacious chip-and-chase efforts in the same set in the lead-up to Clayton Friend’s opening try and comprehensively outplayed opposite number and Australian captain Wally Lewis, widely regarded as the world’s best player, for the third straight game in an 18-0 thumping.

Man-of-the-series honours were a mere formality for the moustachioed cult hero.

“Olsen is the player who sticks out in my mind,” Lowe recalled for a 1992 documentary. “Wally has spoken to me about it since and said everywhere he looked there was just the big figure of Olsen pounding through – he just inspired everybody.”  

Filipaina toured Britain and France with the Kiwis at the end of that season, playing in all five Tests and captaining New Zealand in the second Test at Wigan’s Central Park in Mark Graham’s absence. His decorated tenure in the black-and-white jersey concluded with the disappointing series loss in Australia in 1986, which saw him become only the second New Zealander to pass a century of points in Tests after Des White.

A barnstorming opening try in the second Test at the SCG – steamrolling a defender before accepting a return offload from Graham to dive over – was vintage Olsen.

Filipaina captained Western Samoa at the 1988 Pacific Cup, where his side lost the Apia-hosted final narrowly to New Zealand Māori, and was named Sportsman of the Tournament.

Supplementing his football income with early-morning runs on the back of a rubbish truck, Filipaina was affectionately called ‘The Galloping Garbo’ – and the humble rugby league wizard celebrated in one more magnificent on-field success away from the spotlight. The 33-year-old, teaming up with former Kiwis halves partner Friend, captained Ryde-Eastwood to Grand Final glory in the inaugural Metropolitan Cup competition in 1990.

Filipaina’s mythical status among rugby league diehards has only gathered momentum as the years and decades since his retirement have passed. But he received widespread and richly-deserved recognition in 2020 via the release of Patrick Skene’s captivating, thought-provoking and heart-warming biography, The Big O: The Life and Times of Olsen Filipaina, Pacific Revolution Pioneer. His importance locally was underlined last year when Auckland Rugby League named its newly-established 20s competition the Olsen Filipaina Cup.

The outpouring of support and love from every corner of the rugby league community during his recent health battle reflected the person – more so than the player – Olsen was.

New Zealand Rugby League extends its deepest sympathies to Olsen’s family, friends and legion of fans as they farewell a truly extraordinary individual.

RIP. Arohanui. Alofa telē.

Written by Will Evans on behalf of New Zealand Rugby League.

February 9, 2022

New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is proud to announce key partner and principal sponsor of the Kiwis, Pirtek, has extended its partnership with NZRL for another four years.

A market leader in the provision of on-site hydraulic and industrial hose and fitting products and services, Pirtek’s partnership with NZRL is set to span well over a decade, with Pirtek being one of the most recognisable supporters of rugby league across the Tasman.

This extension means Pirtek will have been principal sponsors of the Kiwis through five World Cup tournaments, including this year’s rescheduled World Cup in England and the 2025 France Rugby League World Cup.

NZRL CEO Greg Peters says this partnership extension is a special milestone.

“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s been no international rugby league for over two years, yet Pirtek’s support for our Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns has never wavered.

“Despite Covid disrupted seasons, Pirtek’s franchise network has provided invaluable support for our grassroots and inaugural women’s and 20’s competitions, coupled with the involvement in our community activations across the country to encourage more tamariki to get involved in rugby league.

“Our partnership is special. The entire team at Pirtek have been loyal members of our NZRL whānau for well over a decade. They have been front and centre of our greatest international achievements and have shown invaluable support throughout our more challenging times,” Peters adds.

“I look forward to the team at Pirtek remaining integral members of the NZRL whānau as we enter an exciting new era of rugby league.”

Chris Bourke, CEO Pirtek, says, “Once again our national Pirtek team is excited about our re-signing as Principal Sponsor of NZRL. We, like all Rugby League fans, are looking forward to the return of international matches in 2022 and beyond.

Although the past couple of years have been a challenge for all concerned we have worked closely with NZRL and their team to provide appropriate support where practical.

Sponsorships and partnerships like ours involve loyalty, just like we appreciate from our long term customers throughout New Zealand.

We all look forward to working closely with NZRL over the next term of our partnership”.

02 February 2022

The Māori All-Stars have named a star-studded line-up led by Dally M Prop of the Year, Premiership winner, and Kiwi #801 James Fisher-Harris. Jayden Nikorima was also named, completing a redemption story that saw him last play first-grade rugby league back in 2017.

It’s a family affair as Jayden is set to line up alongside his brother and Kiwi international Kodi Nikorima (Kiwi #793).

Although injury and suspension have forced changes to each team, this year’s matchup features a diverse array of experience and exciting young talent.

Kiwi #818 Briton Nikora retains his place alongside Cronulla teammate Royce Hunt. The Shire-based team boasts the most participants in the All-Star contest with seven, including Nico Hynes, Will Kennedy, Jesse Ramien, Braydon Trindall, and Andrew Fifita, who will line for the Indigenous team.

The Canberra pairing of Joseph Tapine (Kiwi #800) and Jordan Rapana (Kiwi #798) return, as well as the experienced duo of Kenny Bromwich (Kiwi #796) and Kevin Proctor (Kiwi #771). Esan Marsters is again included in the squad while Warrior’s Jazz Tevaga adds to the big-name power of the Māori outfit, playing in his debut All-Star game.

This year’s contest will also feature debuts from Chanel Harris-Tavita, Morgan Harper, Erin Clark and Reimis Smith, all selected in Kiwis 2021 wider squad. Another player named in the wider squad, Patrick Herbert will be making consecutive appearances for the Māori team.

Head coach David Kidwell has also named Porirua’s exciting powerhouse TC Robati, making his first appearance in the green and white jersey.

Kidwell spoke on the squad, “I’m so thankful to have a group of players who are honoured to represent their culture.”

“This is such an important week for the game, and our players recognise this. They will all do what they can to represent themselves, their whanau and their iwi.”

Both teams clash on February 12th at Sydney’s CommBank Stadium. Catch all the action live on SkySport.

Māori All Stars team:

Briton Nikora (Kiwi #818)

Chanel Harris-Tavita

Dylan Walker

Erin Clark

Esan Marsters (Kiwi #809)

James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801)

Jayden Nikorima

Jazz Tevaga

Jordan Rapana (Kiwi #798)

Joseph Tapine (Kiwi #800)

Kenny Bromwich (Kiwi #796)

Kevin Proctor (Kiwi #771)

Kodi Nikorima (Kiwi #793)

Morgan Harper

Pasami Saulo

Patrick Herbert

Reimis Smith

Royce Hunt

TC Robati

Tuku Hau Tapuha

20th January, 2022

NZRL is sad to announce the passing of Kiwi #387 Murray Paterson, who was a member of the Kiwis squad that toured Australia in 1959.

The former Kiwi international and school teacher was extremely beloved by his family and friends. A man who loved the water, Murray lived a life that not only he enjoyed but impacted the people around him.

A tribute for Paterson was aired on ZM Radio and Murray’s service will be held on Monday 24th of January at 3pm, at Morrison’s Funeral Services in Henderson.

We send our deepest condolences to his wife Maree, three children Mark, Brett and Greg and everyone closely associated with Murray.

Kia Kaha.

18th January, 2022

As seen on NRL.com

The rugby league community will once again rally for a good cause when the Storm and Warriors dedicate their pre-season trial game on February 19 to the people of Tonga.

The pre-season clash at Casey Fields in Melbourne will raise funds for the communities affected by the volcanic eruptions and tsunami last Saturday.

The Pacific nation has a rich and proud history of producing players who have starred at NRL at international level, including Storm premiership winner Felise Kaufusi, who played three Tests for Tonga between 2015-17, and Warriors Addin Fonua-Blake, Ben Murdoch-Masila and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

A range of initiatives will be announced in the coming weeks to allow members and supporters of both clubs to donate to the cause at the ‘Unite for Tonga’ clash.

When tickets go on sale via Ticketmaster at noon this Friday, members and fans will be able to kick off the Unite for Tonga fundraising by making a direct donation via the purchasing process.

“Tongans have a proud history in rugby league and with Storm,” said Storm CEO Justin Rodski.

“We are honoured to be able to join with our friends at the Warriors for this special Unite for Tonga match to do what we can to help in this time of need.

“The full details of the destruction and impact of the eruption on the people of Tonga is still unfolding, but we want to make sure we have done our bit to support the island community as they look to rebuild.

“We hope the Melbourne Storm and New Zealand Warriors fans can dig deep to support the initiatives we have in place and that life in Tonga can return to normal as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, Warriors CEO Cameron George announced on Tuesday that the club had begun working on a relief package for Tonga.

“Our hearts go out to Tonga and especially to the families and communities suffering at this difficult time,” said George.

“Tonga and its people have always held a very special place for us and always will.

“A number of players in our current squad have immediate family or wider family in Tonga. They’re feeling for them right now and so is everyone associated with the club.

“Throughout our history we’ve had strong ties with Tonga through a large number of former players and staff and also our support base.”

14 December 2021

Jahrome Hughes (Kiwi #819) has been named the 2021 Kiwis Player of the Year, Isaiah Papali’i (Kiwi #817) took home Young Kiwi Player of the Year, while James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801) was awarded the inaugural NZRL People’s Choice Award.

Hughes was a standout for Melbourne, who won a record-tying 19 games in a row thanks to the Kiwi’s leadership and consistency in the halves. Hughes ended the 2021 NRL season with nine tries, 19 try assists and 13 line-break assists, cementing his status as one of the competition’s premier players.

Kiwis Head Coach Michael Maguire says the Player of the Year award was no easy decision.

“Kiwi boys across the competition have led their teams to new heights in 2021; the likes of Fisher-Harris, Brandon Smith, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, and Joey Manu were all standouts for their clubs. However, Jahrome’s growth into a leader at the Storm saw him deserving of this year’s accolade.

“Jahrome’s consistency in the spine was evident; he led his team to a record win streak and saw them through to the semi-final. His improvement over the last couple of years has been exceptional, and his game management and kicking game reached a new level in 2021.

“He has solidified himself as one of the game’s best halves and is well-deserving of the Kiwis Player of the Year title,” Maguire concludes.

Isaiah Papali’i (Kiwi #817) was awarded the 2021 Young Kiwi Player of the Year after his breakout season with Parramatta, making 109 tackle breaks and 809 tackles for the year. The young Kiwi’s trophy cabinet for 2021 also includes the VB Hardest Working Player of the Year and Dally M Back Rower of the Year.

Head Coach Maguire says, “From the first time I had Isaiah in the Kiwis squad, to now, he’s grown into one of the game’s most dangerous back-rowers.

“His performance this year stood out; he really stepped up at Paramatta, and he’s well-deserving of the accolades he’s received in 2021.”

Maguire adds, “What’s exciting about his growth is that Isaiah is still young, he’s got years of footy left in him, and he’s well on track to being one of New Zealand’s best players.”

This year, NZRL also introduced the inaugural People’s Choice Award, where fans had the chance to vote for their best Kiwi player of the 2021 season.

It was a tight race to the finish between Hughes, Smith and Fisher-Harris, but a late surge by voters saw the Penrith stalwart, James Fisher-Harris take home the title.

Fisher-Harris had arguably his best season, earning 154 metres a game, averaging 100 post-contact metres in the lead up to his maiden NRL Premiership and second Dally M Prop of the Year accolade.

Head Coach Maguire says, “I know how competitive these awards are, so there’s no surprise it was a tight race to the finish. James is extremely deserving of this; he had an exceptional season, he’s the best prop in the game and an asset to our Kiwis squad.”

Maguire adds, “This year, we have watched many Kiwi players play their best seasons. The depth we are seeing, plus the calibre of football on display is exciting. I’m looking forward to a busy 2022 International season and seeing these boys come together for their country once again.”

23rd November, 2021

The end of the rugby league year is wrapping up, which means it is time for the 2021 NZRL Awards, where the country’s best rugby league talent is celebrated.

This year, NZRL has introduced the first-ever Kiwis People’s Choice Award. This means you, the fans, have the chance to choose who you rightly believe deserves the top individual honour as the best New Zealand player in the game.

2021 presented another year without international fixtures, so this year’s Kiwis awards are based solely on how players performed for their respective professional clubs, whether in the NRL, SuperLeague etc.

Many Kiwi talents showed their class and superstardom in the 2021 NRL season, such as Second-rower of the year Isaiah Papali’i and premiership winner James Fisher-Harris. Melbourne’s halfback and hooker duo of Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith should not be dismissed as well, so the choice will not be an easy one.

Former Junior Kiwi Captain Isaiah Papali’i produced a breakout year for his new club, averaging 150 metres per game whilst making 809 tackles and scoring seven tries. Papali’i earned himself a contract at the Tigers from 2023 onwards after taking home the Dally M Second-Row of the year award.

Arguably the best prop in the game for a few years now, James Fisher-Harris was his consistent best. The Whangarei Marist junior averaged 154 metres per game and 100 post-contact metres; his tireless work rate and leadership led his Penrith side to a classic grand final victory at Suncorp Stadium. JFH’s efforts were justified as he received his second straight Dally M Prop of the Year, cementing himself as one of rugby league’s best.

Another viable candidate includes Melbourne’s barnstorming #9 Brandon Smith. “Hectic Cheese” set up ten tries and scored 11 of his own, and even kicked the NRL’s first-ever 20/40. Smith, like his compatriots, was rewarded with a position on the Dally M team of the year at hooker outplaying his competition.

Don’t forget about Jahrome Hughes, the former Titan and Cowboy solidified himself as not just one of the best halves in the game but one of its best players. After moving from Hooker to fullback, Hughes spent this season as Melbourne’s #7 and repaid Craig Bellamy’s faith in him with nine tries, 19 try assists and 13 line-break assists. He steered Melbourne around the park and directed them to a record-tying 19 victories on the bounce.

Cast your votes here – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MY3HJKR

Voting closes on Monday 29th November, finalists will be narrowed down!

See your People’s Choice Kiwi of the year in action in June 2022!

22nd November, 2021

Kiwi #726 David Fa’alogo has been announced as the Mt Albert Lions Premier Men’s Head Coach for the upcoming 2022 Fox Premiership season. The Mt Albert junior returns after playing over 250 first grade games across the NRL and Superleague whilst also representing the Kiwis from 2006-09, including a World Cup in 2008.

Fa’alogo’s history with the Lions dates back to 2001, joining the club with his brother Sala. They found instant success winning the Bartercard Cup in 2002 under the guidance of coach John Ackland.

“My game developed in a big way during my years at Mt Albert,” says Fa’alogo.

“It is a family orientated club, which made Sala and myself feel connected and right at home, the club has also continued to support both my brother and my family over the years.”

The return of Fa’alogo is a timely blessing for the Lions as Club Administrator Dave Mcdermott commented, “The local game has struggled as of late due to the last couple of seasons being unfinished due to covid.

“Player exodus has affected the team as of late with players leaving to play abroad, and the insurgence of David brings a hunger to play for the club.”

Fa’alogo added, “It is a time of uncertainty for Mt Albert, but together with Matt Sturm and our coaching staff, we intend to continue developing both of junior and senior players coming through the club and build off the great work done in past years.

“It is important to play consistent and competitive footy each week and show what this historic club is capable of.”

The Lions were third on the table and progressed to the competition’s semi-finals before the Premiership was cancelled due to Covid-19.


  • Revised tournament schedule for 2022 to be released on 19 November – one year out from the men’s and women’s showpiece double-header final at Old Trafford, Manchester
  • All 32 teams across the 21 nations participating in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions have fully committed to the tournament which will kick off on 15 October at St James’ Park, Newcastle
  • The rescheduling has impacted only 5 matches (4 match-days) across the 61-match schedule
  • General admission tickets and hospitality for all 61 matches will go on sale from 9am GMT on Friday 19 November via: rlwc2021.com/tickets

The road to the rescheduled Rugby League World Cup 2021 (RLWC2021) officially begins today (15 November) as organisers confirm the 61-match schedule will be revealed in full on Friday 19 November at 9am GMT.

In recent weeks, organisers have worked collaboratively with all tournament partners to finalise the 61-match schedule which will kick off at St James’ Park, Newcastle on 15 October 2022 when England men take on Samoa men. The tournament will then culminate in spectacular fashion at Old Trafford, Manchester on 19 November 2022 with the men’s and women’s double-header final.

In a unique and busy year of international sport and events, staged both domestically and overseas, only five RLWC2021 fixtures (four match-days) have been affected during the rescheduling of 61 matches staged at 21 iconic venues, across 18 host towns and cities.

These changes are the switching of two fixtures between existing venues and the movement of two events to alternative venues.

Despite collective best efforts this has resulted in the disappointing loss of both Anfield Stadium and the M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool from the schedule due to the Anfield Road expansion and prior commitments respectively. However, Liverpool will still play a key role during the tournament with the city providing the training bases for Italy and Tonga. The details of the venue switch and replacement venues will be revealed this Friday, 19 November.

All 32 teams across the 21 competing nations participating in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments have fully committed to the tournament in 2022. In addition, organisers can also confirm the re-introduction of the Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup, hosted in Warrington, which will welcome Ireland as a sixth participant.

General admission tickets and hospitality for all 61 matches will be back on-sale from 9am on 19 November in line with the full schedule reveal. For all the latest tournament news and ticket information sign up: rlwc2021.com/signup

Fans who have purchased tickets for the small number of revised fixtures will be contacted with information on what will happen next with their tickets. A dedicated refund window will be available from Wednesday 24 November to request refunds.

In unprecedented coverage in the UK, the BBC have reaffirmed that every minute of all 61 RLWC2021 matches will be shown live and free across their platforms.

Jon Dutton, RLWC2021 Chief Executive Officer, said:

“For everyone involved in this trailblazing tournament, today is a very important and exciting milestone on our journey to 2022.

“We have suffered a setback, but since that moment in August we have dedicated all our energy towards rebuilding.

“A huge amount of work has gone in behind the scenes and thanks to so many people we have the opportunity to deliver a bigger and better tournament next autumn.

“I want to thank all partners, in particular the UK Government, our broadcast and commercial partners, the administrators of the competing nations for their full commitment, as well as our host towns, cities and venues for providing the perfect stage for the best players in world to shine.

“I also want to extend a special thanks to the incredible number of loyal fans who held onto their tickets and have continued to support this event that will see the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments take place simultaneously for the first time ever.”

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, said:

“Rugby league means so much to many people across the country, so I’m delighted

the Rugby League World Cup is on track to kick off next autumn.

“The UK has a strong record of hosting major international sporting events and this will be

another fantastic opportunity to showcase our towns and cities, and to inspire our young

people to get involved in sport.

“The Government is a keen supporter of rugby league, and we absolutely can’t wait to host

the world’s best teams in what is set to be a bumper year of sport and culture in 2022.”

Troy Grant, IRL Chairman, added:

“Everyone appreciates that international Rugby League has a huge part to play in the future growth of the sport and the tournament is something the world of Rugby League can now look forward to with great excitement.”

“The IRL would like to thank RLWC2021 Chair Chris Brindley and CEO Jon Dutton as well as the wider RLWC2021 team for the thorough and time effective response to postponement and with the full schedule to come this week players, administrators and fans can start to plan their role in creating sporting history.”

14 October 2021

Our oldest living Kiwi #341, 98-year-old Raymond James Cranch, 1951-52 Kiwis tourist, former Auckland prop/second-rower and one of rugby league’s most beloved figures has sadly passed away.

Cranch, 98, was New Zealand’s oldest surviving Kiwi. And by virtually every account of anyone who knows the genial stalwart, he’d be a guaranteed starter in a hypothetical grand final of the game’s friendliest people.

Cutting his teeth in rugby league with the Parnell-based Akarana club as a 13-year-old in 1936, Cranch joined Mt Albert the following season and became one of that club’s greatest servants.

Cranch went on to serve in WWII, training in Maadi in Egypt and fighting in Montecassino in Italy. He received a Year of the Veteran Certificate of Appreciation for his Service given to New Zealand during World War II by the Rt Honourable Prime Minister Helen Clark.

On his return, Ray helped Mt Albert to Fox Memorial success in 1947 and scored a try against NSWRL grand final winners Balmain in an ‘Australasian’ showdown of club champions.

Cranch became an Auckland representative regular (and captain in 1950), starring in the province’s 1948 win over the Kiwis, who had just returned from a gruelling tour of Britain and France. Three years later, he received the opportunity to make a Northern Hemisphere trip of his own, selected in the 1951-52 Kiwis squad.

The presence of indomitable front-row pairing Cliff Johnson and Bill McLennan, crack second-row duo Frank Mulcare and Charlie McBride, and outstanding Canterbury lock Alistair Atkinson kept Cranch out of the Test side – with the quintet playing all five internationals against Great Britain and France – but it was an unforgettable experience nonetheless.

“They were just coming off wartime food rationing, and there was not much good meat around,” Cranch told revered New Zealand journalist, author and historian John Coffey.

“Only the team that was playing the next game got the good stuff. The midweek players, the ‘ham and eggers’, got the rest. We played the continuous tackle rule, and the English teams would keep the ball for 10, even 20, minutes.”

Mediocre nourishment and dour football notwithstanding, the tour produced the customary off-field shenanigans for Cranch and his teammates.

“I remember Cyril Eastlake and Andy Berryman, with napkins on their heads, doing their doctor and nurse act performing surgery on a banana. It was hilarious,” Cranch recalled.

“Over in France, we were travelling down a long narrow road with poplar trees on both sides when (co-manager) Dave Wilkie popped up and asked, ‘Where’s Henry’ (Des White)? He was missing. We had to go another five miles before we could turn the old bus around.

“Going back the other way, we met up with a taxi and Whitey hopped out. He had slept in. When he went down to the hotel reception the girl said, ‘Kiwis are gone’. Des didn’t know any French but he managed to get a taxi and set off after us.”

An elbow injury suffered during the French leg cut Cranch’s tour short and provided him with ongoing problems, but he played on until 1954 before hanging up the boots.

Cranch could then begin the next and most enduring chapter of his rugby league story, moving into administration. He was made chairman of the Auckland Schoolboys Rugby League board of control in 1960 and managed the first New Zealand Schoolboys team on their tour of Australia four years later. Roles with the ARL senior board of control and as manager of the 1973 New Zealand Colts, again touring Australia, followed for the ever-popular Cranch.

“Mt Albert said they would like to nominate me for the Auckland schoolboy board of control. I felt I should put something back into the game, and that’s where it all started,” he said modestly.

An Aucklander and Kiwi through and through, Cranch’s genial nature meant that he wasn’t averse to helping out the ‘enemy’ on the odd occasion.

When the great Australian forward Dick Thornett appeared for Auckland as a guest player in a match against New Zealand in 1969 to mark the NZRL’s diamond jubilee, his boots were ruined after leaving them in the Carlaw Park boiler room to dry.

Requiring size 13 boots, Thornett was in a jam until Cranch, who worked in the footwear industry, came to the rescue with a new pair.

Cranch’s selflessness and enthusiasm to take on roles with rugby league is legendary.

Secretary-manager for the Auckland Leagues Club for more than 20 years, Cranch later served as president and was made a life member. He was a long-serving selector and manager of Auckland teams, filled gaps on judicial committees and worked with referees.

Away from his first sporting love, Cranch also played softball and was involved with the Piha Surf Life Saving Club.

An Auckland Rugby League life member, Cranch received his NZRL life membership in 2003 and was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport in the 2006 Queen’s Birthday honours list.

Ray Cranch will forever live on as one of rugby league’s most admirable servants, a proud Kiwi and a selfless hero, who, if you ever had the privilege of meeting, would have made an everlasting and memorable impact.

May you rest in peace Ray, thank you for your years of love and service to our great game.

“One of the greatest things in my life, to be chosen for the Kiwis, it’s the best game in the world.”

Ray Cranch, 2021

07 October 2021

New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce the Kiwis’ Rugby League World Cup Wider Squad.

Despite the absence of international football over the last two years, 2022 will be the busiest international calendar in recent time, as NZRL work towards a June Pacific Test and Trans-Tasman clash, all before the October 2022 World Cup campaign.

After his impressive club season, Premiership-winning Panther and Dally M Prop of the Year, James Fisher-Harris unsurprisingly made the list, as did Dally M Backrower of the Year and Eels’ golden buy, Isaiah Papali’i. Papali’i is joined by fellow Parramatta playmakers Dylan Brown and Marata Niukore.

Star Rooster’s centre Joey Manu had one of his best seasons with 12 line breaks, ten tries and 141 metres per game. He joins veteran Kiwi prop and Roosters teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves who made 1280 post-contact metres in 23 appearances for 2021.

Melbourne’s Reimis Smith locked in his selection with 14 tries this year, as he joins a plethora of Kiwi Storm talent, including standout half Jahrome Hughes, who was instrumental in a well-oiled Melbourne side that ran rampant throughout 2021.

Corey Harawira-Naera returns after a dominant performance in his first full season at Canberra, and departing Shark Shaun Johnson is joined by Cronulla teammates Ronaldo Mulitalo, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Briton Nikora.

Fresh names to join the frame include Bronco’s back-rower and former Junior Kiwis captain Jordan Riki, who enters the squad after a solid debut season. Titan’s Hooker and former Manurewa Marlin Erin Clark gets the call up alongside dynamic youngster Josh Schuster and Waikato born Morgan Harper after a breakthrough seasons with Manly.

“We have listed this wider squad, so players are aware that the upcoming preseason and following season creates an enormous opportunity for them and this Kiwis team”, says Head Coach Michael Maguire.

“International football has been a challenge,” Maguire adds. “But the player’s enthusiasm to represent their country is as strong as ever; there’s no question as to how much this jersey means to them, and their eagerness to play has never wavered. The senior players set a strong foundation and have their eyes focused on the 2022 World Cup.”

The 2021 season saw many Kiwi eligible players stamp their mark on the NRL, encouraging selectors to name a ‘Notable Players’ list that Head Coach Maguire has deemed “the future of the Kiwis team.”

“With the football that our younger players have played, we have created a list of players that, with a little more experience, could be the future of this team,” says Maguire.

“I am sure we will unearth some new Kiwi talent in the next 12 months, and we may even uncover more current names not listed. Nevertheless, this depth is encouraging.

“This year, we have watched many New Zealand players have their best seasons yet. Now with that experience, coupled with the new generation of talent coming through – it is an exciting time to be a Kiwi.”

1 September 2021

Another fantastic NRL Premiership concludes with the Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs going head-to-head in the Grand Final. Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium will serve as host of not only the two teams but a plethora of Kiwi players plying their trade on the big stage.

Sixteen years separate his visits to the big dance and rugby league icon Benji Marshall will be looking to repeat his grand final success. Initially approaching Wayne Bennett for a coaching role at Souths, Bennett, in turn, offered Kiwi #717 a spot in the squad as he displayed his ability to still play on a high level. This season, Marshall has been a key figure off the bench for the Rabbitohs, bringing experience to the second unit. The man from Whakatane has been hailed as one of the greatest to compete in the competition, with opposing five-eight and Junior Kiwi Jarome Luai claiming Benji to be his idol and modelling his game after him. Marshall will be crucial for Souths to win their first NRL Premiership since 2014.

Hailing from Northland, James Fisher-Harris (#801) has turned himself into one of the best props in the game. His tireless work on both attack and defence, to go with his uncanny ability to break tackles, has earned him two consecutive Dally M Prop of the Year awards.

The Whangarei Marist junior averaged 154 metres per game and about 100 post-contact metres on his way to his second Grand Final in two years. A leader for this young Penrith squad, Fisher-Harris, has been instrumental in the success of the western Sydney outfit and will be looking for redemption on Sunday.

Starting on the Rabbitohs wing this Sunday is Jaxson Paulo, who strangely has a similar path to this stage as teammate Benji Marshall. Born in Takapuna on Auckland’s North Shore, Paulo moved to the Gold Coast at a young age and attended Keebra Park State High School, including alumni Benji Marshall. Paulo moved from the Titans to Souths and made his debut in 2020 in round ten. The winger has scored 13 tries in 24 appearances, including two against Manly in the 2021 Preliminary as they advanced to the grand finale.

2021 was a renaissance for Taane Milne. The Fijian international struggled for games at the Warriors, which paid dividends to South Sydney. Milne came into the squad mid-season and went on a run of eight tries in 12 games, including a hat-trick against North Queensland in round 17. Auckland born Milne has also played for the Junior Kiwis, where he lined up with James Fisher-Harris and the New Zealand Māori residents. Milne will serve as Souths 18th man on Sunday.

New Zealand eligible players: Spencer Leniu, Steven Marsters, Patrick Mago.

Previous Junior Kiwis: James Fisher-Harris, Taane Milne, Steven Marsters, Jarome Luai.

Kiwi Internationals: Benji Marshall #717, James Fisher-Harris #801

1 October 2021

As seen on raiders.com.au

Sia Soliola has announced his retirement from professional rugby league today after 17 seasons playing the game at the highest level. Soliola made his International debut on October 14th, 2006 and went on to play 12 times for New Zealand.

“I’m at ease with everything now,” Soliola said. “There’s a few mixed emotions, I’m excited and a bit nervous but relieved to make the decision to leave the game which has given me a lot and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.

Soliola has played a combined total of 336 matches across the NRL and Super League, with 137 of those matches for the Canberra Raiders over 7 seasons.

His announcement headlines several players departing the club playing roster at the end of the 2021 season, with Dunamis Lui, Siliva Havili, Ryan James, Darby Medlyn and Caleb Aekins also finishing their time at the club.

Soliola made his NRL debut for the Roosters in 2005 under Coach Ricky Stuart, and his career will finish under the same Coach who first gave him his opportunity to pursue his dream of playing rugby league at the highest level.

He arrived in Canberra in 2015 as part of a club rebuild under Coach Ricky Stuart after five years playing for St Helens in the Super League in England. His influence was immediate, and his contributions have helped the club achieve some wonderful successes in his time in green.

“When I first came here to this club and Ricky spoke about the vision and what he had regarding the playing group and the club as a whole, that’s what really excited me,” Soliola said “Especially being over at St Helens where I really enjoyed my time over there and everyone notices how the English Super League operates and how the crowds and communities come together and he wanted me to bring that energy and experience that I had over there and bring it to Canberra.  

“Because I went so young when I went to Super League, I felt like I still had a fair bit of time to come back to the NRL. There was always that feeling in the back of your mind whether you could still do it or not, but I was excited with the challenge that was in front of me and I really wanted to do what I could to help influence the team when I came back to Australia.”

The first thing Soliola learned when he arrived was just how much connection the club had had with the game, the community and even his own family and this was something he wanted to be a part of.

“When I signed, I didn’t realise how much influence this club had outside the game itself. My family and friends and the generation I grew up with in the 90’s, my immediate family and parents really understood who guys like Loz (Daley) and Rick and Mal (Meninga) were and they were a big influence on that generation, and it was pretty cool,” he said. “Even knowing guys like Gerry (De La Cruz) before I came here and then learning on how big of a part he played here as Raider #3 was nice to uncover all of those stories and learn as much as I could.”

Soliola’s willingness to buy into the club and the community has seen him become one of the most loved and respected players in the club’s history, with his work off the field as equally as impressive as what he’s been able to achieve on the field for the club.

This culminated in 2019 when he was awarded the prestigious Ken Stephen Medal after the Raiders Grand Final appearance against the Roosters.

Soliola said his love for helping others and engaging with his community stems from his own life experiences and said his late mother Fialelei has been and always will be his inspiration for being someone who looks out for others.

“I have to pay tribute to my late mother who passed away this year, and with her being gone and as a family as a whole reflecting on her time here it made me really think about why I do the things I do,” Soliola said. “It’s really been a tribute to her and how she operated within our family. It’s no surprise that I followed in her footsteps and I contribute a lot of how I do things in my life to her.

“She’s always been the type to bring everybody in together and connecting people and getting an understanding of what we’re all about. She always wanted to see the bigger picture and so do I thanks to her.

On the field Soliola was a fierce competitor who always led from the front with his actions. He made an immediate impact when he arrived in 2015, winning the Meninga Medal in his first season and was part of the Raiders squad which made their first preliminary final in over two decades in 2016.

He said his first two years at the club was an opportunity to establish what the team was trying to do by connecting with the community and improving on-field performance, with the team taking some huge steps forward in that period.

“It meant we were moving in the right direction and we were doing the right things both on and off the field. When I first came here Rick was about getting the right people and connecting with the community first and that was a big push for the playing group,” he said. “Getting that respect back from the community and earning their trust again and then marrying it up with the performances on the field.”

Despite two disappointing seasons in 2017-18, Soliola said the belief within the squad was still strong and it was the foundation the club had set was the catalyst for what they were able to achieve by making the Grand Final in 2019.

“There was a lot of lessons to be learned through those years (2017-18), but we were always confident we were heading in the right direction and in 19 we were just the one game away from making all the difference,” Soliola said. “Even though we didn’t achieve the ultimate goal I have no regrets with my time here and I’m really excited with my next phase to try and help the club wherever I can.”

That opportunity now comes with the commencement of his new role in the club’s welfare and education team, a role which he has already commenced this year in a learning capacity.

Soliola will swap his footy boots for a laptop and will be tasked with the responsibility of passing on what he has learnt to help educate, inspire and guide the next generation of Raiders.

“I’m looking forward to the next phase of my life and working in this space,” Soliola said. “I’ve had the chance to do a little bit, but obviously Covid and the team relocating to Queensland prevented me doing too much, but I now get the opportunity to really harness it, and focus on it, and I’m excited to work with Andrew Bishop and David Thom in that space, and with guys like Dean Souter who have been in this area as well. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by all of that experience.”

Soliola said he’d always remember his time in green and wanted to make sure he thanked all of the clubs members, supporters and community members for their support over his time wearing the green jersey.

“To the members, supporters and the community I just want to really thank everyone for their support and just really embracing me. I really feel like a son here,” he said. “Whether I’m dropping off the kids to school or playing in the park those little memories and relationships I’ve built I hold very dear, and everyone has really being comfortable to approach me and treat me not so much as a player but as a friend and have a chat to them and that’s what I love about Canberra, it’s one big family.”

Sia Soliola
Career First Grade Matches: 336
NRL Career Matches: 229 (Raiders 137, Roosters 92)
Super League Matches: 117 (St Helens)
Representative Matches: 16 (New Zealand 12, Samoa 4)

As seen on rnz.co.nz

29th September 2021

Former New Zealand Warriors rugby league star Motu Tony was 14-years-old when he knew he wanted to play the sport professionally. 

The Auckland Warriors were formed in 1995, and for the first time, there was a team he thought looked just like him.

“When the Warriors came into the [Australian Rugby League competition], the Winfield Cup in 1995, I would have been year nine then, but that’s when it sort of hit me like, hey, these guys, you know, some of those guys look like me in terms of being Polynesian or Samoan,” he said. 

“They were playing the game every week and getting paid for it, so that’s when it dawned on me that this could be a career.”

The 40-year-old said teachers laughed at the idea of him dreaming of a life as a professional footballer, but for the Samoan Niuean from south Auckland, the goal was already set in stone. 

“I understand it now when teachers ask you the question about what do you want to do when you leave school, and you tell them you want to play league, they laugh, they tell you to maybe go to university and do this and do that, but I wasn’t worried because I knew what I wanted to do.”

Five years later, Tony made his debut for the New Zealand Warriors, one of his most treasured memories over a professional playing career that spanned 12 years. 

Motu Tony made his debut for the New Zealand Warriors in 2001. Photo: Supplied

“I started playing when I was like six, so that’s 13 years I’d been grinding and working towards this dream and it finally happened,” he said. 

“I was terrified at first but then I got excited because I wanted to challenge myself against these guys that I’d seen on TV.  Players like Stacey Jones, Jerry Seuseu, Ali Lauiti’iti, these guys were awesome players and I wanted to prove myself to them.”

“And you know, my family, my mum, she probably would have told everyone in Māngere that her son was playing for the Warriors too,” he quipped. 

The General Manager of Football and High-Performance at New Zealand Rugby League played 55 games for the Warriors before a short stint at the Brisbane-based Broncos in 2004. 

He moved to England where he played for the Castleford Tigers, before playing 100 games for Hull F.C, finishing his career with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in 2012.  

He also played 13 games for the New Zealand Kiwi’s.

Looking back, the former international believes it’s a career that wouldn’t have kicked-off without the rugby league programme at his Auckland-based college, De La Salle. 

The 1996 De La Salle First XIII brimmed with NRL talent. Photo: Instagram / Motu Tony

“Playing with those older guys had a massive effect on me,” he said. 

“I was playing with older guys who were Junior Kiwis and in the Warriors system, and I got to see first-hand what you had to do to get to that level, but also just how you should be as a person.”

Former Warriors player and team-mate Tai Savea, who drowned while on a fishing trip at Port Waikato in 1998, was especially significant, he added. 

“He was the captain of our De La Salle team and he had a massive impact on me and my rugby league career.”

“He was like a big brother and one of those guys who was always critiquing my game, always saying you should be doing this, or you should be training like that… those sort of things were invaluable to my career.”

Despite the absence of a rugby league team since 1999, the school has been a melting-pot for talent, which boasts the likes Jason Taumalolo, Jeff Lima, and Leeson Ah Mau to name a few. 

After some help from another De La Salle old-boy and former NRL player, George Carmont, 2021 saw rugby league back on the paddock for the first time in 22 years. 

But it came with some challenges. 

De La Salle are back on the rugby league seen after 22 years. Photo: Supplied

“It was really difficult and there was a lot of opposition to it, but now that it’s come back I think people can see why we pushed for it and what it’s done for our community here in Māngere,” said Motu Tony.

“A lot of people weren’t aware that De La Salle hadn’t had a team for so long… and it was hard work because we were pretty much starting from scratch again, but it’s been real rewarding to see some progress both on and off the field.”

In their first year back, Carmont helped coach the team to win Auckland’s Senior A Grade Championship.

The victory means they advance to the Premiership grade in 2022, in a pool of prominent rugby league schools including St Paul’s College and Kelston Boys’ High School.  

De La Salle’s First XIII were also scheduled to compete in New Zealand Rugby League’s secondary schools competition in late August, but it was cancelled because of Covid-19.

Motu Tony said it was just the beginning and he felt lucky to give back to a programme that heavily impacted his life.

De La Salle College were crowned Auckland’s 2021 Senior A Grade Champions in their return to the scene after 22 years. Photo: Supplied

“How lucky are we to get a chance to give back to the game, but to also hopefully help people in other parts of their lives too.”

“When you can see some of the changes that you’ve observed with some of the boys in your team to where they are now, that’s what makes it all rewarding for us.”

28 September, 2021

James Fisher-Harris (#801), Brandon Smith (#816) and Isaiah Papali’i (#817) all earned themselves 2021 Dally M Medal Awards last night, cementing themselves as the best NRL players in their respective positions for this season.

Fisher-Harris picked up his second consecutive Dally M Prop of the year, while Smith, Hooker of the Year, and Papali’i, Back Rower of the Year, earned their first-ever Dally M awards.

James Fisher-Harris continued his influential performances in the NRL, backing up last season with another strong year that included 154 metres per game and just under 100 post-contact metres. The Whangarei Marist junior has become one of the most consistent forwards in the game, and his tireless efforts on both attack and defence saw him rewarded with his second grand final berth in two years.

Waiheke Rams, Brandon Smith has transformed himself into a household name with his performances in the Melbourne Jersey this season. Taking the baton off of Cameron Smith, Brandon was exceptional for the Storm scoring 11 tries and setting up ten from dummy-half. His attacking instincts and controlled aggression gave Melbourne an excellent foundation in games and helped them to their 19-game win streak and Preliminary finals berth.

Kiwi #817 Isaiah Papali’i began to fill the potential and put the pieces of his game together. Dominant whether starting or coming off the Parramatta bench, Papali’i had a career year at his new club. Papali’I was among the top tacklers and post-contact metre earners in a strong season for Parramatta. He was also awarded the VB Hardest Working Player of the Year award, combining his talent and work ethic in what was a break-out season for the Te Atatu junior.

Congratulations also to Kiwis Joseph Manu (#815), Jahrome Hughes (#819), Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (#755) and Sitili Tupounuia, who were nominated for awards.


Dally M – Tom Trbejovic

Fullback – Tom Trbejovic

Wing – Brian To’o

Centre – Justin Olam

Centre – Matt Burton

Wing – Reuben Garrick

Five Eight – Cody Walker

Halfback – Nathan Cleary

Prop – James Fisher-Harris

Hooker – Brandon Smith

Prop – Payne Haas

Second Row – Isaiah Papali’i

Second Row – Viliame Kikau

Lock – Isaah Yeo

Coach – Craig Bellamy

Rookie of the year – Sam Walker

Captain of the year – James Tedesco

Top Points Scorer – Reuben Garrick

Top Try Scorer – Alex Johnston

Peter Frillingos Headline Moment – Melbourne Storm 19-match winning streak

Provan Summons – Josh Morris

Try of the Year – Tom Trbejovic

Tackle of the Year – Xavier Coates

Hardest Working Player of the Year – Isaiah Papali’I

21 September 2021

Kiwi #749, Issac Luke is saying goodbye to rugby league after 43 tests, 5 tries and 22 goals for his country, including one historic 08 World Cup and two Four Nations triumphs, forever cementing him a New Zealand Rugby League great.

“My dream was to always be a Kiwis player. The All Blacks are the pinnacle in New Zealand as it was always rugby throughout school, but I was told I couldn’t play 1st XV because I played too much like a league player, so I bled Black and White well before I put it on.”

Issac Luke

Luke decided to hang up his boots, after a career where he achieved almost everything possible.

League has been his entire life since he was a teenager when he left Taranaki to chase his NRL dreams in Sydney.

“My goal was to give kids from where I came from pathways,” Luke tells the Herald. “I wasn’t big, or tall, but I had a bit of mongrel and skill.

“For someone from Hawera, even getting one [NRL] game was special. So getting to 286 and 43 tests, I am pretty content with what I have done.”

“Rugby league is all about playing for pride. I took Taranaki everywhere with me, the maunga often gave me energy. For me it was all about playing for your people, if I make it, Taranaki makes it, when I made the Kiwis, they made the Kiwis.”

“With the Kiwis it’s all about leaving the jersey in a better place and I believe I did that.”

Issac Luke
Howie Tamati and Issac Luke – 2014

Luke was a unique talent.

He had rough edges but was a wonderful player. Luke is arguably the best Kiwis hooker in history (Brandon Smith may take that mantle, but not yet) and was a dominant No 9 in the NRL.

He was a fearless competitor, who helped to change the sport with his dummy half running game, and at times even managed to overshadow Cameron Smith at his peak.

“I was fortunate to coach Issac at both club and at international level. He was a player that loved playing for the Kiwis as he was a very proud New Zealander. He always represented his family and country with great passion and will retire as one of the greats to wear the Black & White. Issac was also a great club man that helped South Sydney to their 21st GF win after 43yrs. 

“I will always remember Issac for his speed and deception around the ruck terrorising an opposition.”

Kiwis Head Coach, Michael Maguire

He was part of a golden period for the Kiwis, with the 2008 World Cup victory and the 2010 and 2014 Four Nations triumphs. Luke was also a key figure in the Rabbitohs revival, which culminated in the 2014 grand final win, and he scored 50 tries and kicked 205 goals across his NRL career.

2014 Four Nations

“If I was being picky, there are two things I wanted to achieve; get that milestone of 300 and go to the Dally M’s and bring something home,” says the 34-year-old.

“But I won an NRL premiership, a World Club Challenge, the NRL Nines, the Four Nations and a World Cup. I think I achieved enough.”

Luke rates Cameron Smith as his toughest foe and was proud to be recognised as the international hooker of the year (ahead of Smith) in 2013.

Jonathan Thurston was the toughest competitor – “by a country mile” – and Sam Burgess his best teammate.

“It was uncanny, from the first game I looked at him and he just knew what I was going to do,” says Luke. “From then on, every time I moved, he moved.”

Luke made his debut in 2007 against the Melbourne Storm.

“They got a tip during the week, ‘a young fella named Issac Luke was going to be debuting – he can’t tackle so run at him’. They sent all their forwards at me; I put Jeff Lima on his arse twice and Ben Cross once.”

Luke was Souths’ first choice rake before his 20th birthday and had some stunning seasons, including the nine-try 2010 campaign. The Rabbitohs reached consecutive preliminary finals in 2012 and 2013, before the 2014 breakthrough, though Luke was infamously suspended from the decider.

“When I heard ‘guilty’ my focus went on helping Api [Koroisau] get ready,” says Luke. “But I rang my dad and once I heard his voice I broke down. That was what we always dreamed about, one of his kids, or even someone from Taranaki….so to make it that far and not get to play was hard.

“It was tough, definitely tough. People even say today, I can’t believe you missed out on the grand final. But we won, so I’m all good with that.”

Luke will never forget the 2008 World Cup final, when the Kiwis shocked Australia, who had Billy Slater, Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston and Smith, 34-20 at Suncorp Stadium.

He says it’s one of his favourite memories in the Black and White jersey.

“In 2005 I was playing Junior Kiwis with Sam Rapira, Greg Eastwood and Sika Manu and that night we were all the [interchange] bench,” says Luke. “I was 21 and we beat possibly the best Kangaroos team they have ever assembled.”

2005 Junior Kiwis

The 2014 Four Nations campaign was also special, as was captaining the Kiwis in 2015 and 2018.

That 2018 season – especially the early streak – and the haka for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at the Dally M awards are his favourite Warriors memories.

Luke will stay close to the game in retirement, especially mentoring his kids.

His eldest son Adaquix (14) is a fullback at the Broncos academy, while Cruz (13) is with the Panthers and daughter Ava (11) has gained a league scholarship to Marsden State High, south of Brisbane. Frankie (5) and Remi (3) might be future prospects.

“I’ll be in that space where I can help, coach my kids or be a part of a team that needs my knowledge,” says Luke, who is happily settled in Brisbane, where his wife’s family are based.

Luke will always be a special story, from an unlikely background to the top of his sport.

“When I was growing up I had a lot of mates who were so talented but they were ‘them’, smoking in the in-goal, then get on the field and be man of the match,” says Luke. “What brought me to where I am is that I didn’t want to be like them…I pushed myself in different areas.

“My Dad always told me when I was little it’s either you or them…that still rings in my ears. Sometimes I would get run over but I would get back up and go looking for you.”

Issac Luke

Rabbitohs (2007-2015) – 188 NRL games
Warriors (2016-2019) – 83 NRL games
Dragons (2020) – 3 NRL games
Broncos (2020) – 12 NRL games

NRL record: 286 games, 50 tries, 205 goals.

Kiwis debut: v Australia, 2008.
Kiwis record: 43 tests, 5 tries, 22 goals

“I’m happy to be a part of this Kiwis family forever”

Issac Luke

Adapted from Michael Burgess’ NZ Herald feature piece

06 September 2021

From an age when sporting tours were more akin to odysseys, the Kiwis’ 1971 trek to Britain and France was and always will be among the most remarkable in New Zealand sporting history.

Across 86 days the New Zealanders crammed in 26 matches – six of them Tests – and achieved the singular feat of winning the series against Great Britain 2-0 and backed it up with a 2-0 result in France.

In doing so the Lory Blanchard-coached, Roy Christian-led Kiwis completed an unprecedented sweep which had started with a stunning four-tries-to-one 24-3 upset of the world champion Kangaroos at Carlaw Park in late June.

While the All Golds had beaten the Northern Union 2-1 on their trailblazing 1906-08 tour, the 1971 Kiwis were the first official New Zealand team to win a series in the United Kingdom.

It all comes back into focus now in recalling this tour of all tours kicking off 50 years to the day – September 4, 1971 – in the Lancashire town of Rochdale at the foothills of the South Pennines.

The very mention of the tour is at once evocative, memories flooding back of all manner of deeds and details.

Among them is the vivid recollection as a 16-year-old schoolboy waking up in the early hours to listen to the excitable Murray King’s commentary on a trusty transistor under the pillow (no live television then, of course). And quite some time later there were BBC television replays aided – and perhaps abetted – by unique commentator Eddie Waring’s Yorkshire brogue.

However, marking the 50th anniversary of this story of such spectacular triumph against all odds is also clouded in so much sadness, for now but 13 of the 26 players who toured are still alive; only recently two more of this special crew passed away, standoff-halfback Gary Woollard last month and fellow halfback Shane Dowsett in June.

The first to pass away was goal-kicking front rower Henry Tatana (1998) followed by hooker Bill Burgoyne (1999), prop Doug Gailey (2007), winger Bob McGuinn (2012), loose forward Tony Kriletich (2016), winger Phil Orchard (2018), centre John O’Sullivan (2018), second rower Bill Deacon (2019), fullback Mike McClennan (2019), prop Robert Orchard (2020) and fullback John Whittaker (2020). Blanchard passed away in 2013.

If the win over Australia offered hope heading into the tour it was seemingly eroded by the Kiwis’ form in the opening matches.

In an era when the four-tackle rule was in force – and hometown referees were the norm – the Kiwis beat the Rochdale Hornets 23-8 to open their account but faced a frantic schedule with six matches in the space of 14 days leading into the first Test at The Willows in Salford; their only other win was over Widnes while losses to St Helens, Hull Kingston Rovers, Castleford and Warrington suggested the first Test would be beyond them.

And when coach Blanchard revealed his side for the opening Test there was more than a degree of incredulity with his choice of John Whittaker at fullback. He hadn’t played there in the lead-up matches but Blanchard had three exceptional wingers in Phil Orchard, Mocky Brereton and Whittaker and felt they all needed to play. What a masterstroke it would prove to be turning Whittaker into a fullback.

Another standout feature of the first Test side was the inclusion of the gifted Dennis Williams at standoff. Turning 18 just the day before his international debut, he was outstanding leaving his mark with a sizzling stepping run on his way to a brilliant first half try.

Despite that, the Kiwis were 12-13 down at halftime but had a 15-13 lead through the powerful Phil Orchard early in the second half. Nervously they clung to the advantage until another Orchard try – this time the equally potent Robert – powered over close to the posts. Tatana failed to convert from the handy angle but the Kiwis negotiated the final hectic minutes to secure a stunning 18-13 win.


In their next four matches they beat Barrow, Whitehaven and Wigan while dropping a midweek clash against Swinton.

Great Britain made numerous changes for the second Test at Wheldon Road in Castleford – including recalling feisty halfback Alex Murphy – in a desperate effort to level the series. Also selected was former Welsh rugby union star David Watkins making his Great Britain Test debut.

The changes were working well when the home side led 8-0 and then ominously extended to 11-0 after Roger Millward ducked under high tackles and scooted to score wide out.

The Kiwis struck back with a sensational near length-of-the-field try sparked by a wonderful Dennis Williams break; he linked with speedster Phil Orchard on halfway, the winger burning off the cover for his first try of the contest. A Tatana penalty soon after left the Kiwis 5-11 behind at halftime.

Soon after the break they were in again, Phil Orchard stretching the defence with an electric carry. On the next tackle halfback Ken Stirling was at dummy half for a rehearsed play working a slick scissors move which had all the forwards in motion. Second rower John Greengrass crossed to the right, prop Doug Gailey headed wide to the left and the others moved up the middle, Stirling picking up a steaming Tatana who charged over to score.

At 10-11 the Kiwis were right back in it and soon after came one of two heroic defensive plays which would prove critical to the result.


This one unfolded as winger Joe Walsh cut through and was in the process of putting the ball down only for a desperate Stirling to jolt the ball loose in a last-ditch try-saving tackle.

Not long after a shocking late and high shot from Murphy flattened the courageous Stirling, an act which was ignored by match officials but ended the Kiwi halfback’s involvement in the match.

A Tatana penalty edged the Kiwis ahead 12-11, Watkins missed a long-range penalty but then winger Clive Sullivan had Great Britain ahead 14-12.

There it stayed until the Kiwis attacked from depth again, shifting the ball across field to the right where centre Roy Christian released the destructive Orchard some 60 metres from the line. Orchard’s combination of speed, strength and balance was breathtaking as he diced with the touchline, stumbled after bumping off fullback Derek Edwards but then scrambled over for a try of exceptional quality and one of major moment.

Tatana converted splendidly from wide out to put the Kiwis 17-14 ahead facing a frenetic final stanza if they were to take out the match and clinch the series.

And now came the most astonishing and vital defensive act of the game. Great Britain attacked relentlessly, the Kiwis repelled them but then Mike Stephenson created space on the left edge for replacement winger Billy Benyon. He was airborne and set to score when out of nowhere loose forward Tony Kriletich launched to knock the ball out of Benyon’s grasp. Not just a match winner but a series clincher. History.

After such a climax the Kiwis lapsed with three straight losses, won three and then lost again in a scarcely believable schedule of seven matches in 14 days ahead of the third Test.

The New Zealanders couldn’t complete a clean sweep going down 3-12 to the Brits in Leeds before blitzing France 27-11 and 24-2 in the first two Tests (Orchard with five tries in total) and winding up the tour with a 3-3 draw in the third Test.

Among a long list of outstanding performers Phil Orchard was an absolute standout. He missed just seven matches on tour, scoring 27 tries in his 19 appearances including eight in five Tests.

Holding it all together was a wonderful leader in Roy Christian, a man held in such high esteem. History sadly shows no New Zealand rugby league player has ever been knighted; Christian would be highly deserving and, had he played another code, he surely would have been recognised years ago.

Barring continued Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, Christian and a group of the surviving members of the famed 1971 Kiwis will be saluted at the ex-Kiwis’ annual reunion traditionally held in October.

Theirs will always be a story and time in New Zealand sporting history to cherish.

Richard Becht

Back row: Bill Burgoyne, Ken Stirling, Bob McGuinn, Gary Woollard, Ray Williams, Dennis Williams.
Third row: Mocky Brereton, Mike McClennan, Bernie Lowther, Jim Fisher, Robert Orchard, Phil Orchard, John O’Sullivan.
Second row: John Greengrass, Henry Tatana, Bill Deacon, John Whittaker, Garry Smith, Murray Eade.
Front row: Doug Gailey, Bill O’Callaghan (co-manager), Roy Christian (captain), Lory Blanchard (coach), Tony Kriletich (vice-captain), Jack Williams (co-manager), Don Mann.Seated: Shane Dowsett, Graeme Cooksley, Dave Sorensen.


Fullbacks | John Whittaker (Wellington), Mike McClennan (Auckland)

Wingers | Phil Orchard (Bay of Plenty), Mocky Brereton (Canterbury), Bob McGuinn (Auckland)

Centres | Roy Christian (Auckland) captain, Bernie Lowther (Auckland), John O’Sullivan (Auckland), Dave Sorensen (Auckland)

Halves | Dennis Williams (Auckland), Gary Woollard (Auckland), Ken Stirling (Auckland), Graeme Cooksley (Canterbury), Shane Dowsett (Auckland)

Hookers | Jim Fisher (Canterbury), Bill Burgoyne (Auckland)

Props | Henry Tatana (Auckland), Doug Gailey (Auckland), Robert Orchard (Auckland), Don Mann (Auckland)

Second rowers | John Greengrass (Canterbury), Gary Smith (Wellington), Bill Deacon (Waikato), Ray Williams (Auckland)

Loose forwards | Tony Kriletich (Auckland), Murray Eade (Auckland)


September 4 v Rochdale Hornets, Athletic Grounds, Rochdale  WON 23-8

September 6 v St Helens, Knowsley Road, St Helens  LOST 8-18

September 8 v Hull Kingston Rovers, Craven Park, Hull  LOST 10-12

September 12 v Widnes, Naughton Park, Widnes  WON 18-15

September 15 v Castleford, Wheldon Road, Castleford  LOST 8-25

September 18  v Warrington, Wilderspool, Warrington  LOST  2-13

September 25 v Great Britain, The Willows, Salford  WON 18-13

September 30 v Barrow, Craven Park, Barrow-in-Furness  WON 25-15

October 2 v Whitehaven, Recreation Ground, Whitehaven  WON  21-8

October 8 v Swinton, Station Road, Manchester  LOST 15-26

October 10 v Wigan, Central Park, Wigan  WON 24-10

October 16 v Great Britain, Wheldon Road, Castleford  WON 17-14

October 17 v Huddersfield, Fartown, Huddersfield  LOST 10-11

October 20 v Leigh, Hilton Park, Leigh  LOST 5-10

October 22 v Salford, The Willows, Salford  LOST 30-31

October 24 v Wakefield Trinity, Belle Vue, Wakefield  WON 23-12

October 27 v Oldham, The Watersheddings, Oldham  WON 24-13

October 30 v Bradford Northern, Odsal, Bradford  WON 30-23

October 31 v York, Clarence Street, York  LOST 5-11

November 6 v Great Britain, Headingley, Leeds  LOST 3-12

November 11 v France, Stade Gilbert Brutus, Perpignan  WON 27-11

November 14 v Littoral Province, Stade St Ruf, Avignon  WON 14-9

November 18 v Combined XIII, Stade Municipal d’Albi, Albi  WON 20-9

November 21 v France, Stade Albert Domec, Carcassonne  WON 24-2

November 24 v Combined XIII, Stade Chaban-Delmas, Bordeaux  WON 20-9

November 28 v France, Stade Municipal, Toulouse  DREW 3-3


Henry Tatana (#455) aged 53 in 1998

Bill Burgoyne (#487) aged 52 in 1999

Doug Gailey (#476) aged 59 in 2007

Bob McGuinn (#481) aged 64 in 2012

Tony Kriletich (#459) aged 72 in 2016

Phil Orchard (#475) aged 70 in 2018

John O’Sullivan (#493) aged 68 in 2018

Bill Deacon (#445) aged 75 in 2019

Mike McClennan (#488) aged 75 in 2019

Robert Orchard (#443) aged 74 IN 2020

John Whittaker (#485) aged 70 in 2020

Shane Dowsett (#495) aged 74 in 2021

Gary Woollard (#420) aged 79 in 2021  

27 July 2021

Kiwi #779 and Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck was yesterday granted an immediate release from his club contract, sparking the end of a highly decorated rugby league career.

Tuivasa-Sheck’s last game for the Warriors was against the Penrith Panthers, where he had to depart with a concussion. He was set to return to play against the Wests Tigers this weekend before the decision was made to head home.

Tuivasa-Sheck was the only Warriors player to spend all of last season without his family. His commitment to the club went above and beyond. He played a significant role in holding the Warriors squad together throughout the pandemic. Sharing the announcement with his teammates on Monday, Tuivasa-Sheck said,  “It was tough holding it all back”.

“I’m pretty sure they were quite disappointed and although they’re supportive that I get to chase a new challenge and dream of mine, it was tough to hold back the tears.

“It’s a sad way to end my time at the club, especially when my last game was with a concussion and not being able to play in front of all our fans back at Mt Smart.

“It is a sad way to [end] but I’m just grateful to have the club supporting me along the way.”

Apia-born, Auckland-raised, Tuivasa-Sheck has had an amazing career in the Black and White jersey. Debuting at Kiwi #779, playing 20 test matches with 56 test points.

He became a schoolboy star in rugby league and union for Otahuhu College. Sydney Roosters recognised his talent and lured him across the Tasman at the end of 2011. Named in the 2012 NYC Team of the Year, the 19-year-old featured in the last six games of the Roosters’ NRL campaign. He represented the Junior Kiwis and was named NZRL’s Junior Player of the Year.

In the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, Tuivasa-Sheck became one of the main stars at the tournament. On debut, Tuivasa-Sheck scored a try on the flank against Samoa – the first of eight tries he scored at the tournament, a tally that included a dazzling double in the epic semi-final win over England.

Tuivasa-Sheck took over from retired club legend Anthony Minichiello as the Roosters’ fullback in 2015 and immediately assumed the No. 1 jersey in the Kiwis’ line-up, starring in their rousing 26-12 ANZAC Test triumph in Brisbane and all three Tests on the post-season tour of England. Setting new standards for metre-eating productivity, he also collected the Dally M fullback of the year award.

At just 23 years of age, he was incoming Warriors coach (and former Kiwis mentor) Stephen Kearney’s surprise choice to captain the club in 2017. But Tuivasa-Sheck responded by winning the first of three straight Warriors Player of the Year awards. He was a try-scorer in the last mid-season Anzac Test in Canberra before playing in all four of New Zealand’s RLWC matches and scoring three times to set a new mark for World Cup tries by a Kiwi (11), while also collecting NZRL’s Kiwis Player of the Year honour.

Tuivasa-Sheck led the Warriors to the finals after a seven-year absence in a phenomenal 2018 campaign, becoming the club’s first Dally M Medal winner – and just the third New Zealander (after Gary Freeman and Jason Taumalolo) to collect the prestigious honour as the premiership’s best and fairest.

While the Warriors slid down the NRL ladder, Tuivasa-Sheck’s performances in 2019 remained top-shelf. An absolute workhorse for his side, the skipper topped the competition for running metres and set a new NRL record for metres gained in a game (367), while still managing to produce his trademark game-breaking brilliance on a regular basis. He finished equal-fifth in the Dally M Medal count – first among players from teams that missed the finals.

‘RTS’ scored a try in the Kiwis’ mid-season win over Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium to take his Test tally to 14 in just 17 matches. Tuivasa-Sheck featured in New Zealand’s loss to Australia and both victories over Great Britain at the end of the year; he was particularly influential in the tough 12-8 win against the Lions at Eden Park, setting up the opening try for Jamayne Isaako with a breath-taking flick pass and coming up with several vital defensive plays in the tense dying stages.

A nominee in 2015, Tuivasa-Sheck’s excellence in the international arena was recognised via the 2019 RLIF Golden Boot award. The 28-year-old joined Hugh McGahan (1987), Stacey Jones (2002), Benji Marshall (2010), and Shaun Johnson (2014) as the only New Zealanders to collect the gong in its 28-year history, solidifying his status as an all-time Kiwis great.

Tuivasa-Sheck’s exceptional, inspirational and selfless role as the skipper of the Warriors’ Australia-based campaign in 2020 attracted universal admiration and a richly-deserved Dally M Captain of the Year award. 

Tuivasa-Sheck will switch to rugby union with the Auckland Blues for the next Super Rugby season and set his sights on playing for the All Blacks at the 2023 World Cup.

New Zealand Rugby League congratulates and extends their appreciation to Kiwi #779 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for an astonishing career with the New Zealand Kiwis. Wishing him all the best on his next journey and future achievements to come.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s key milestone achievements:

  • Dally M Winger Of The Year – 2013
  • RLIF Winger Of The Year – 2013
  • Dally M Fullback Of The Year – 2015, 2018
  • RLW Player of the Year – 2015
  • NZRL / Kiwis Player of the Year – 2017
  • Dally M Player Of The Year – 2018
  • IRL Golden Boot Winner – 2019
  • Dally M Captain of the Year – 2020

7 June 2021

The 35-year-old Blair, from Whangarei, has been made an MNZM for his services to rugby league.

Blair is only the second person in the history of rugby league to play 50 Tests for New Zealand behind Ruben Wiki (55) and is the New Zealander with the second most NRL appearances in the Australian Premiership (331) cementing himself as one of New Zealand Rugby League’s greats.

Adam Blair took the field at Eden Park against the Great Britain Lions in 2019 in what was his 50th Test cap for New Zealand, marking an exceptional international rugby league career spanning 14 seasons. He is just the ninth player in history, and second New Zealander to achieve such a milestone.

Blair has a long and decorated career in the Black and White jersey beginning in 2006 when he made his debut after only 16 NRL appearances. Injury struck him out of the Kiwis’ 2007 campaign but he went on to feature in all seven of the Kiwis’ 2008 Tests; including the most iconic Test match of all, the 2008 World Cup final where Blair’s pick-up of a loose ball to score sealed New Zealand’s first ever World Cup victory with a 34-20 triumph over Australia.

He went on to play all five of the Kiwis’ Tests in 2009 – winning the NZRL International Player of the Year and was a regular at prop, lock or second-row for his country until the end of 2012, including another Suncorp Stadium upset of the Kangaroos in the 2010 Four Nations Final.

2014 Blair received a well-deserved recall for the Kiwis and was a front-row starter in all four Four Nations matches including dual wins over the Kangaroos.

2015 saw Blair named co-captain of the Kiwis squad that toured England and was ever present in all six of New Zealand’s 2016 Tests and the 2017 Anzac Test. Blair then received an honourable accolade as he was announced Captain of the Kiwis’ 2017 World Cup squad.

2018 saw him capped in New Zealand’s record-equalling fifth victory over Australia and two matches against England.

After skippering the Māori All-Stars in a historic pre-season encounter with the Indigenous All Stars, Blair made his 300th NRL appearance in 2019 – only the third Kiwi to do so following greats, Ruben Wiki and Simon Mannering.

2019 saw the 33 year old receive a late call up for the Kiwis campaign where he started at lock against Australia before being honoured with his 50th Test cap in front of friends and family at home at Eden Park. He went on to play his last Test for the Kiwis the following week in Christchurch as the Kiwis achieved a series win against the touring Great Britain squad.

Against the backdrop of his international accolades, 2020 saw Blair co-captain the Māori All-Stars in their 30-16 win over the Indigenous All Stars to then go on and play every single game for the Warriors 2020 season before calling time on his long-standing but legendary career.

For all that, when he was told about his appointment, he admits he initially thought he’d done something wrong. “I got a phone call from someone from the Governor-General’s office and I thought I was in a bit of trouble!” Blair told Stuff.

“I was wondering what I’d done wrong, so I needed to apologise to the lady on the phone who spoke to me, because I was a bit funny on the phone and I had to say sorry for the way I acted.

“But I’m very grateful and humbled to be nominated firstly and then to be on the list.”

NZRL CEO Greg Peters says, “Adam Blair has cemented himself as a rugby league great, a Kiwi legend and a Māori leader.

“We are extremely grateful to have had someone of his calibre rep the Black and White jersey, and we thank Adam for not only leading on the field but also in the community and being a great advocate for the game,” he adds.

“This accolade is well deserved, he’s a Kiwi great who has been an integral part of key New Zealand Rugby League history. His impact both on and off the field will be felt for decades to come. Congratulations Adam.”

Warriors CEO Cameron George says that even during his playing days, Blair’s dedication to give back to local communities went unmatched.

“When we needed something in the community, regardless of his pay-packet or standing in the game, Adam was always the first one to put up his hand,” he said.

“He just loves giving back to people, and he’s been able to do that through rugby league, because he has a wonderful story behind him.”

“His passion and commitment are outstanding, and we’re really privileged to have him as part of our club and the game should be privileged to have people like Adam in it.”

Blair has moved on to the next chapter in his life which he’s pursuing with the same enthusiasm he’s always had.

“I’m doing the TV stuff and I fell into that,” Blair said.

“I’m lucky after everything I’ve done to be able to talk about rugby league, which is everything I know.

“I help with the development pathways at the Warriors, with Stacey Jones and Tony Iro.

“At the moment there aren’t any pathways set up, because of Covid and there not being any games.“ But I can teach them the basics of our game and give them my knowledge and experience to help, so they’re prepared to take the next step.

“I’m also trying to sneak off on my own and set up the ultimate goal for me, which is to have an academy. Where people come to me and I show them the way, with my knowledge and train them.

“But then if those pathways aren’t open for them, then there are other opportunities out there.

“So have businessmen and trades all connected into the one academy where I can show them pathways, rather than them getting to the point where they realise they’re not going to make it in rugby league, then not knowing what they should do next, and we are losing a lot of kids.

“So that’s my ultimate goal, to give back to the community, help our next generation be better equipped for not just rugby league, but for life in general.”

22 February 2021

The most influential Māori sportspeople of the past 30 years have been crowned and four rugby league greats have been honoured in one of the most prestigious sporting lists.


Dubbed The Little General during his standout career with the Warriors and the Kiwis, Jones was, according to broadcaster Dale Husband, “so popular he could have been Prime Minister”. Played 48 tests and 238 NRL games for the Warriors before turning to coaching. Ex-Warriors and Kiwis teammate Wairangi Koopu said Jones transformed both teams. “The small rarea bird flies up high in the kahikatea tree. That’s how you’d sum up Stacey Jones.”


The star of the Kiwis’ only Rugby League World Cup winning team in 2008, Benji Marshall is about to enter his 19th NRL season, having played over 300 first grade games. Won a NRL title with Wests Tigers in 2005 when he produced an amazing flick pass in the grand final. Golden Boot winner in 2010 as international player of the year. “He could have played State of Origin, he definitely could have played for Australia, but he chose the black jersey over a Kangaroos jumper,” said ex-Kiwi Tony Kemp. “To me, that says everything. The guy’s an absolute legend.”


One of the most respected players in NZ Rugby League history and across the entire NRL scene, Wiki starred during 12 seasons with the Canberra Raiders, winning the 1994 premiership as a centre. Ended his 311-game career with three seasons as a Warriors prop. The most capped Kiwi with 55 tests and a NRL Hall of Famer. Former Kiwis captain Hugh McGahan said of Wiki: “He’s got conviction, he’s got resilience, he’s got power. He never knew the meaning of the word, ‘giving up’.’’


Her 32 Test tenure in the Kiwi Ferns jersey includes four World Cups spanning 18 seasons. Putararu-born Hireme-Smiler was named World Cup MVP in 2013 and also appeared for the Black Ferns a year later at the 2014 Rugby World Cup, as well as starring in the Black Ferns sevens team. Former Warriors and Kiwis forward Wairangi Koopu claims Hireme’s ease at switching between the two codes earned her the nickname of “Honey Bill Williams”. She was named in NRL.com’s Women’s Rugby League Team of the Decade (2010s) and appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the game, cementing her standing as one of women’s rugby league’s all-time greats.

Most influential Māori sportspeople of the past 30 years

1. Lisa Carrington – Te Aitanga-A-Māhaki/Ngāti Porou (Canoeing)
2. Michael Campbell – Ngāti Ruanui/Ngāi Rauru (Golf)
3. Wynton Rufer – Ngāti Porou (Football)
4. Jason Wynyard – Ngāti Maniapoto/Ngāpuhi (Wood Chopping)
5. Pero Cameron – Ngāpuhi (Basketball)
6. Zinzan Brooke – Ngāpuhi (Rugby)
7. Stacey Jones – Ngāti Maniapoto/Ngāpuhi (Rugby League)
8. Farah Palmer – Tainui/Ngāti Maniapoto (Rugby)
9. Benji Marshall – Ngāi Tuhoe (Rugby League)
10. Dame Noeline Taurua – Ngāpuhi (Netball)
11. Aaron Smith – Ngāti Kahungunu (Rugby)
12. Portia Woodman – Ngāpuhi (Rugby)
13. Ruben Wiki – Ngāpuhi (Rugby League)
14. Trent Boult – Ngāi Tahu/Ngāti Porou/Ngāi Te Rangi (Cricket)
15. Eric Rush – Ngāpuhi (Rugby)
16. Winston Reid – Tainui/Te Arawa (Football)
17. Peter Martin – Te Arawa (Paralympics Athletics)
18. Leilani Joyce – Ngāti Hine/Ngāi Te Rangi/Tainui (Squash)
19. Suzie Bates – Ngāi Tahu (Cricket/Basketball)
20. Honey Hireme-Smiler – Ngāti Raukawa/Ngāi Haua/Waikato-Tainui (Rugby League/Rugby)
21. Nathan Nukunuku – Ngāti Porou (Softball)
22. Temepara Bailey – Ngāpuhi (Netball)
23. Shane Bond – Ngāi Tahu (Cricket)
24. Sarah Hirini – Ngāti Kahungunu (Rugby)
25. Joelle King – Ngāti Porou (Squash)
26. Raelene Castle – Ngāpuhi (Sports Administrator)
27. Kayla Whitelock – Rangitāne (Hockey)
28. Cathy Millen – Ngāi Tuhoe (Power Lifting)
29. Cameron Leslie – Ngāpuhi (Paralympics Swimming/Wheelchair Rugby)
30. Shannon McIlroy – Ngāti Porou (Lawn Bowls)

December 16, 2020

James Fisher-Harris and Krystal Rota have been named the 2020 New Zealand Rugby League Players of the Year for the first time in their careers, while Dylan Brown earned Young Kiwi Player of the Year for the second year running and Autumn-Rain Stephens Dally took home Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year.

In a season that saw no Kiwi Internationals due to the ongoing implications of Covid-19, the 2020 Kiwis High-Performance Awards were judged solely on NRL performance. The Kiwi Ferns Awards have been credited on international merit due to their clash against Fetu Samoa Invitational which was the only New Zealand Rugby League International for the year.

2020 Kiwis Player of the year, James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801), was named 2020 Dally M Prop of the year and earned recognition as one of the NRL’s best and most hardworking forwards. Passing the 100-game milestone for the Panthers, he led the competition in post-contact metres, was the top forward in terms of total run metres and played an integral role in the Panthers’ drive to their first grand final in 17 years.

Kiwis Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “James has performed consistently right throughout the year at such a high standard and to make it to the grand final is a real credit to him.”

“It’s been a pleasure to watch him develop into the player he is, one of his biggest strengths is consistency, you know what he’s going to deliver for his team and he’s a step above where he’s ever been and how he performs. He’s a quiet achiever but he’s all about action. James is a clear asset to any team he’s a part of and is well-deserving of this accolade.”

Captaining her country for the first time, the 10 Test veteran Krystal Rota and 2020 Kiwi Fern player of the year,  led the Kiwi Ferns to their 28-8 win over Fetu Samoa Invitational in November. No stranger to the captaincy role, 2020 also saw her captain the Māori All-Stars as well as the Counties Manukau Stingrays, leading them to their 11th straight women’s title in the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership.

Kiwi Ferns Head Coach Ricky Henry says, “This was Krystal’s most influential year. I knew she had leadership capabilities from watching her in the Māori All-Stars and throughout her Counties campaigns but these qualities were definitely on display in Kiwi Ferns camp.”

“Captaining your country is whole other ball game, it’s the highest level of leadership and responsibility a player can have and she rose to the challenge.  A worthy recipient and these qualities will only continue to grow.”

For the second year running, Kiwis Junior Player of the Year, Dylan Brown cemented his place in the NRL as one of its elite playmakers. Brown made 16 regular-season appearances for Paramatta, with nine line-breaks, 52 tackle-busts, 11 forced dropouts and five tries. At just 20 years of age, he was instrumental in the Eels’ run to the playoffs drawing praise from the highest levels of the game for his defence and multi-faceted attack.

Kiwis Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “A real quality Dylan has shown is his ability to improve every time he steps out on the field.”

“He’s grown as a player and he had a taste of the Kiwis at the Nines last year but I know a real driver for him is to earn a Kiwis Test jersey and he’s definitely heading in the right direction. Watching him push his team around the park, putting his body on the line, growing his leadership capabilities but at the same time building his own game has been pleasing to watch. He’s maturing as a player and showing his true character both on and off the field.”

2020 Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year, Autumn-Rain Stephens Dally, enjoyed a meteoric rise after switching to rugby league in 2020.

Named MVP of the inaugural NZRL National Women’s Championship after her stand-out performance at full-back for the Upper Central Stallions, she then made her international debut at five-eighth for the Kiwi Ferns against Fetu Samoa Invitational.

The 24-year-old’s skills were on display at Mt Smart Stadium, as she played a key hand in two tries before scoring two more of her own, including a blistering 50-metre effort.

Coach Ricky Henry said, “Autumn-Rain scored three tries in the first ever game I watched her play, she’s an outstanding talent that seems to have found her home with rugby league.”

“She’s willing to learn and grow, initially playing out of position but rising to the challenge. She wreaked havoc on the field, she’s explosive, fast and these skills will only mature. She’s definitely one for the future.”


2020 High-Performance Winners:

 Kiwis Player of the Year – James Fisher Harris

Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year – Krystal Rota

Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year – Autumn-Rain Stephens Dally

Kiwis Young Player of the Year – Dylan Brown


2020 NZRL Community Award Winners

Grassroots Club of the Year – Mangere East

Domestic Men’s Player of the Year – Francis Leger

Domestic Women’s Player of the Year – Harata Butler

Domestic Coach of the Year – Phil Gordon

U16s Player of the Year – Tre Fotu

U18s Player of the Year – Sam McIntyre

Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson

Pirtek Volunteer of the Year – Shayne Wassel

The New Zealand Rugby League community is mourning the loss of Kiwi #568 Gerard Stokes, a Canterbury stalwart on and off the field, and one of New Zealand’s most prominent coaches of the past 30 years. He died aged 65 after battling brain cancer.

Stokes leaves behind an enormous rugby league legacy that included playing and coaching stints on the New Zealand and British club scenes, and with numerous representative teams on our shores.

The son of Jim Stokes, a West Coast and Canterbury forward, Marist-Western Suburbs product Gerard showed early promise as a tough front-rower. He represented New Zealand at schoolboy and age-group level and played for Canterbury B at just 17.

Stokes broke into the senior Canterbury team in 1980. By now with Eastern Suburbs, he used a strong showing for South Island as a springboard to selection in the 1982 Kiwis squad to tour Australia and Papua New Guinea, featuring in four matches.

Stokes spent the 1982-83 northern winter with Workington Town, but not before the start a story that has since passed into rugby league folklore and illustrates his rare toughness unfolded. Stokes dislocated then broke his finger after it became caught in Wellington enforcer and Kiwis teammate Kevin Tamati’s shorts during a rep match. Leaving for England soon afterwards, Stokes played with painkilling injections and the injured finger strapped up all season, then had the digit amputated upon his return to New Zealand at the same time as having minor knee surgery.

The veteran forward returned to Marist-Western Suburbs in 1986. He then turned his hand to coaching, leading the Saints to a grand final – a loss to Halswell – as player-coach in 1988.

A stint in charge of the Hornets garnered grand final success in 1993, before Stokes took the reins of the Canterbury Country Cardinals in the Lion Red Cup. He led the Cardinals to the playoffs in the competition’s inaugural 1994 season.

Stokes became Canterbury coach in 1997, the beginning of a five-season tenure that reached a crescendo in 2000 as the Bulls took out the inaugural Bartercard Cup title. Other representative appointments during the late-1990s included the New Zealand Nines and New Zealand Residents teams.

He was a Kiwis selector and assistant coach under Gary Freeman and New Zealand A coach in the early-2000s, while he coached Wellington in the 2002 and ’03 Bartercard Cups before returning to Workington Town as head coach – the start of a seven-year stretch as a coach in the Old Dart that ultimately led to Christchurch-born son Ben becoming a superstar all-rounder with the England cricket team.

Stokes left Workington Town for neighbouring archrivals Whitehaven in 2008, coaching the club for three seasons – a period that also saw him coach Serbia’s national team.

Ged and Deb Stokes moved home to Christchurch in 2013. Ged, a carpenter by trade, worked with young offenders at Paparua Prison up until last year.

New Zealand Rugby League offers its sincere condolences to Gerard’s wife Deb, sons James and Ben, his extended family, his many friends, and the ex-teammates and players he coached who were touched by the contribution of one of our game’s great servants.

Will Evans 

While the NRL playoffs have no room for NZ Warriors this season, plenty of Kiwis remain in contention for the championship title on October 25.

More than 30 players of NZ heritage are scattered throughout the eight teams still standing.

Here are some to watch out for over the next four weeks:

James Fisher-Harris

The Northland-born prop has notched up 100 appearances for the Panthers and become a key contributor to a pack that has dominated the 2020 competition.

He finished among league leaders in post-contact metres (1347) and decoy runs (150), while finishing fourth in run metres (3659) and second in runs (394), just behind Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Fisher-Harris was the only forward in the top eight for that last category – the rest were fullbacks and wings.

With only half a dozen international caps to his name, the 24-year-old looms as a must-have selection for Michael Maguire’s Kiwis World Cup roster next year.

Corey Harawira-Naera

Another hailing from the Far North, Harawira-Naera was headed for the NRL wilderness, after he and then-Bulldogs teammate Jayden Okunbor lured schoolgirls to their Port Macquarie hotel room during the pre-season.

He found a new lease of life when he left the club mid-season and headed for the Aussie capital, hooking up with the Raiders.

The 25-year-old second rower has proved a valuable asset off the bench for last year’s beaten finalists and a ready-made successor to English star John Bateman, who has already signalled he’s not coming back next season.

Jahrome Hughes

The rise of Wellington-native Hughes has gone under the radar this year, due to all the drama in the NRL, but the 24-year-old has established himself as a premier halfback in the competition. 

After playing most of his career at fullback, Hughes switched to halfback to cater for the emerging Ryan Papenhuyzen late last year and hasn’t looked back. 

A recent NRL.com fan survey had Hughes as the equal second-best halfback this year, behind Nathn Cleary, while he beat the Panthers playmaker in the most improved category.

In just 16 games, he finished with 13 try assists, which was more than any Warriors player.

Hughes played three tests last year, although all his appearances were off the bench as a utility. 

Dylan Brown 

If the Eels are to make a run in the playoffs, young Northlander Brown will be at the forefront of their attack. 

Brown seemed unlikely to play any further role in Parramatta’s 2020 campaign, when he suffered a syndesmosis injury against South Sydney in September, but he’s recovered in time for the post-season.

The 19-year-old has stepped out of his shell this year and become the perfect sidekick for Mitchell Moses in the halves. 

Brown hasn’t represented NZ at international level, but with some top halves ending their careers, Maguire will pay close attention to the man who could lead the Kiwis for the next 15 years.

Jaxson Paulo

The North Shore-born wing has made the most of his opportunity, with injuries to the South Sydney Rabbitohs’ outside backs paving the way for Paulo’s NRL debut this season. 

He has played 10 games to date and scored two tries, although one of them was controversial, as his foot touched the sideline before grounding the ball. 

On the field, he’s averaged more than 100 metres and 1.5 tackle breaks per game.

Original Source – Newshub by Grant Chapman and Ben Francis

New Zealand Rugby League is saddened to hear of the passing of Kiwi Great, John Whittaker #485, who unfortunately lost his battle with cancer last night.

Whittaker, 70, was inducted as one of New Zealand Rugby League’s Legends of League in 2012 due to his outstanding career in the Black and White jersey which spanned 13 seasons, he was also named in New Zealand Rugby League’s Team of the Century.

Whittaker made his international debut for the Kiwis in 1970 and went on to earn 24 caps for the Kiwis including four World Cups. Despite suffering significant injuries in a motoring accident, he made a full recovery and was recalled in the early 1980s after two years out of the national side.

Following his Kiwis career, Whittaker – affectionately known as “Poppy” – played in the 1986 Pacific Cup representing his home country of Rarotonga.

His early playing days were with the Randwick club in Wellington, where he was a key contributor in multiple premierships from 1968, through to 1983. He earned a mammoth 73 caps for Wellington, rightfully classing him as one of Wellington Rugby League’s greatest ever players.

The father of two and grandfather of four will forever be known as a New Zealand Rugby League icon in which his legacy both on and off the field will continue to inspire many for generations to come.

May he rest in peace.

The Rugby League World Cup 2021 tournament organisers have today revealed the much-anticipated fixture schedule for what promises to be the biggest and best World Cup in the history of the sport, as the men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams all compete at the same time in a major sporting first.

New Zealand’s men’s and women’s side will be competing in RLWC2021.

The full fixture list for New Zealand is as follows:

  • New Zealand vs Lebanon (men’s) – Halliwell Jones, Warrington (Sunday 24th October) – 19.30pm
  • New Zealand vs Jamaica (men’s) – Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds (Saturday 30th October) – 19.30pm
  • New Zealand vs Ireland (men’s) – Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds (Friday 5th November) – 19.30pm
  • New Zealand vs France (women’s) – LNER Community Stadium, York (Wednesday 10th November) – 17.00pm
  • New Zealand vs Cook Islands (women’s) – LNER Community Stadium, York (Sunday 14th November) – 17.00pm
  • Australia vs New Zealand (women’s) – LNER Community Stadium, York (Thursday 18th November) – 19.30pm

In June, it was revealed that New Zealand’s men’s and women’s sides will be using York as their team training base.

Jon Dutton, RLWC2021 Chief Executive, said: “This is a huge moment for the tournament and for millions of fans around the world as we reveal the full fixture schedule.

“The tournament has been gaining momentum over recent months and global fans can now look forward to being part of this unique sporting event. With match dates and locations confirmed, the excitement will only intensify.

“RLWC2021 will bring together the very best that the sport has to offer, and you can see from the schedule that there is no end of world class, not-to-be-missed matches, across all three tournaments.

“We can’t wait to welcome all our competing nations and their fans to England next autumn for the biggest and best Rugby League World Cup to date.”

With 61 fixtures over a six-week period the tournament will showcase a festival of world class sporting action. The dates, venues and kick-off times for each of the three tournaments is now confirmed and available to view below and at www.RLWC2021.com

Please visit www.RLWC2021.com for more information, for details on how to sign up to receive ticket alerts and all the latest news first.

Ever wondered how the Te Iwi Kiwi haka came about? Cultural Advisor Ora Kihi talks us through the meaning of the haka and why it has a special place in the hearts of all our Kiwis players, and their biggest supporters.






A call to all Kiwis of the world


Unleash the spirit within.


Prepare the post for our house.


The Maori Pou, indigenous people    


Let the earth shake and ground rumble.


The Pou that links all cultures.    


The God of War


Who is this war party      


It is the Kiwi war party


I draw my power.        


From the beginning of time


I draw my strength.      


From my ancestors.


Here stands my House.  


Be careful


For I will defend it        


The breath of LIFE.

New Zealand Rugby League is saddened to hear of the passing of Kiwi #558 and Māori Rugby League great, Rick Muru.

The Huntly born prop was a legend of Taniwharau Rugby League Club, being named in the Taniwharau Team of the First 70 Years back in 2015. He played for Waikato and the New Zealand Māori, including at the 1975 and 1977 Pacific Cups.

In 1980 Muru was selected to play for the Kiwis on their tour of Great Britain and France which he played five games for New Zealand, scoring once.

He was a valued member of the New Zealand Rugby League community both at a grassroots and international level – his contribution to the game will not be forgotten.


A dominant New Zealand performance in the second and final Test against Great Britain on Saturday night saw the Kiwis win 23-8 and secure their first series victory over the Lions in 21 years.

After emerging 12-8 winners in a dour affair a week earlier in Auckland, the Kiwis found their attacking mojo in Christchurch with returning playmaker Shaun Johnson a leading contributor, terrorising Great Britain’s makeshift left edge which included regular five-eighth Blake Austin playing on the wing.

Having run out of specialist outside back, coach Wayne Bennett named Austin on the wing following the late withdrawal of Zak Hardaker with a shoulder injury on Friday.

Another standout for the home side was Jamayne Isaako who scored 11 points via four penalties, a conversion and a late field goal.

The Brisbane winger was playing his first Test in his hometown of Christchurch with his terminally ill father Taai watching on from the crowd.

The Kiwis led 16-2 at half-time thanks to tries from Joseph Manu and Shaun Johnson, along with eight points off the boot of Isaako.

Earlier New Zealand got the scoring started thanks to a penalty in front of the posts, which came after Austin dropped a Johnson bomb and gifted them back-to-back sets with the ball.

But three minutes later Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was ruled to have taken too long to leave a tackle and Gareth Widdop locked things up with a penalty of his own.

Despite bringing in another towering bomb sent his way, Austin was promptly bundled into touch and on the next set centre Joseph Manu made the Lions pay, bouncing out of a three-man tackle to slam the ball down.

Isaako then landed two penalty goals in the space of four minutes to stretch the Kiwis’ lead to 10-2 on the half hour.

Cleary out to prove a point after being dropped from the national team for the first time in his career last week, Johnson earned a repeat set with a pinpoint long kick into the in-goal area and then produced a brilliant individual run to score New Zealand’s second.

After standing up Elliott Whitehead with some dazzling footwork the Sharks playmaker weaved his way over, with Isaako converting for a 16-2 lead at the break.

More points following in the second spell for the Kiwis, and after getting his side into attacking position with a powerful run where he broke five tackles, Ken Maumalo scored his fifth Test try with an athletic finish in the corner.

Trailing 20-2 with half an hour to play Great Britain needed something to spark them to life, and got it in the way of a late Josh Jones offload which resulted in a try to Josh Hodgson.

Widdop converted to reduce the deficit to 12, but hopes of building momentum were thwarted when Alex Walmsley dropped the ball 10 metres off the Lions’ line on the very next set.

Great Britain were twice denied tries by video referee Henry Perenara inside the final 20 minutes.

First John Bateman was found to have missed the ball on a desperate effort to ground it before the dead ball line, before Jake Connor was ruled to have knocked on in the lead up to a would-be try nine minutes from time.

With any hope of a comeback now lost, Great Britain were dealt one final blow when Isaako slotted a field goal and another penalty to stretch the final deficit.

The Lions have little time to lick their wounds, with a clash against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby awaiting them next Saturday.

New Zealand Rugby League is saddened to hear of the passing of former Kiwis Captain, Kiwi #503, Tony Coll.


West Coast second-row forward for 12 years, Coll played 65 games (including 30 tests) for the Kiwis between 1972 – 1982 as well three World Cups. He famously captained the 1977 Kiwis World Cup team to beat Australia.


Coll also had a brief spell in the Canterbury Rugby League competition, playing with Marist-Western Suburbs and representing Canterbury.


Coll went on to coach the West Coast in 1986 and 1987 and was made a New Zealand Rugby League “Legend of League” in 2007.


He was a valued member of the New Zealand Rugby League community and his contribution to the game will not be forgotten.


Check out our new Official NZ Kiwis Playlist!

This playlist is a compilation of our player’s favorite songs during the COVID lockdown period. Make sure to give it a follow.




Due to the COVID-19 international pandemic, New Zealand Rugby League regrets to inform that the Oceania Cup International Test matches scheduled for June between the Kiwis and Tonga Invitational XIII and the Kiwi Ferns and Fetu Samoa have been postponed.

We appreciate this is an unprecedented step being taken for international rugby league; however, due to the current travel restrictions, self-isolation requirements, and restrictions on mass gatherings, the decision has been made to cancel.

NZRL is in discussions with the APRLC (Asia Pacific Rugby League Confederation) regarding potential postponement options and will continue to liaise with industry bodies, government agencies and playing groups to determine the best course of action going forward.

Greg Peters, NZRL CEO said these are unprecedented measures that had to be taken.

“With the recent announcement on mass gatherings and the unpredictability of this pandemic, the safety and well-being of our players, staff and supporters remain a priority. We are also very conscious of the current demand on some of our players due to the travel restrictions in place which we will be taking into full consideration going forward.

“Even if restrictions were to be lifted before the event date, it still is not feasible to undertake the work required now to deliver matches in June amid the current uncertainty. The best-case scenario is our calendar is postponed, depending on what the NRL season looks like the back end of the year, but of course, we cannot guarantee anything at this stage.

“We are in unfamiliar and unknown territory; collectively, we are all feeling the widespread impact of this pandemic but rest assured, we will be exploring every possible option.”

New Zealand Rugby League is saddened to hear of the passing of Kiwi #443 Robert Orchard.

Orchard originally played for Ngongotaha and represented Bay of Plenty. In 1967 Orchard moved to the Ellerslie club in the Auckland Rugby League competition and became an Auckland representative. In 1968, Auckland defeated Canterbury 29-15 during Queen’s Birthday weekend.

He played for the New Zealand Māori side in 1972.

In 1973 Orchard moved to Queensland and represented the state, playing two games against New South Wales. While in Queensland, Orchard spent time with Redcliffe, Mt Isa, Mackay and Wynnum-Manly.

Orchard first represented New Zealand while at Bay of Plenty in 1965 against Great Britain and France (3-matches). He again played for the Kiwis in 1966 against Great Britain and, while at Auckland, in 1967 against Australia (2-matches), in 1970 against Great Britain (3-matches), in 1971 against Australia, Great Britain (3-matches), and France (3-matches), and in 1972 against Australia.

His contribution to New Zealand Rugby League will not be forgotten.


Australia will meet Fiji, Italy and Scotland in Group B, while New Zealand were drawn against Ireland, Jamaica and Lebanon in Group C and Tonga play Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea and Wales in Group D.

In the women’s tournament, New Zealand were drawn in the same pool as Australia in a massive boost for the likes of England and PNG.

However, most interest in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace centred on which team Prince Harry picked as England’s opponents in the opening match on October 23, 2021. The match will be played at St James’ Park in Newcastle.

Tournament organisers couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome as Samoa have the potential to be a massive drawcard if Williams chooses to play for them.



World Cup pools

Men’s Group A – England, France, Greece, Samoa

The host nation narrowly lost the 2017 final 6-0 to Australia and would be expected to top their pool but Great Britain’s disastrous Southern Hemisphere tour at the end of last season and the retirement of Sam Burgess have raised concerns.

Samoa are the obvious threat but their only win since 2016 was a 24-6 defeat of PNG in last year’s Pacific Test.

Men’s Group B – Australia, Fiji, Italy, Scotland

It would take a stunning upset for the Kangaroos to fail to top their pool but Tonga showed what is possible by beating Australia last November in Auckland and Fiji aren’t too far behind.

The Bati have qualified for the semi-finals of the last three World Cups and will be battle-hardened by Tests against New Zealand and Tonga this year.

Scotland drew with New Zealand in 2016 and Samoa at the 2017 World Cup but its hard to see them or Italy making it out of their pool.

Men’s Group C – New Zealand, Ireland, Jamaica, Lebanon

This is probably the most wide-open pool, with the exception of the current No.1 ranked Kiwis.

Jamaica qualified for their first World Cup by beating the USA more than a year ago, while Lebanon are likely to field a young team after the retirements of Robbie Farah and Tim Mannah from the team that made the quarter-finals in 2017.

Ireland were unlucky not to have advanced to the 2017 quarter-finals in place of Samoa and would have under the format for the 2021 tournament.

However, the results in Group C are likely to come down to which of Ireland, Jamaica and Lebanon has the best heritage players to help claim second spot.

Men’s Group D – Tonga, PNG, Wales, Cook Islands

After beating Great Britain and Australia at the end of last season, as well as New Zealand at the 2017 World Cup, Tonga are aiming to win the 2021 tournament and few doubt they are capable.

Besides Tonga, Group D is also wide open as PNG beat Great Britain at the end of last season and Cook Islands have the potential to field a strong line-up if all of their heritage players make themselves available.

Wales have been disappointing in recent seasons but the tournament being in the UK will be of benefit to the Dragons.

Women’s Group A – England, Brazil, Canada, PNG

The Orchids, Ravens and Brasileiras would have been doing handstands after being drawn in Group A with England.

Brazil will meet the host nation in the opening game of the women’s World Cup at Emerald Headingley Stadium on November 9, 2021.

Women’s Group B – Australia, Cook Islands, France, New Zealand

Most interest in the women’s draw was always going to revolve around which side of the draw the Kiwi Ferns were in and France and the Cook Islands now face a tough World Cup campaign.

The Jillaroos are the defending World Cup champions and also won the 2013 final but New Zealand had won every tournament before that.

Wheelchair Group B – France, Wales, Scotland, USA

Defending World Cup winners France will meet Wales, Scotland and USA in pool B.

The 2021 World Cup is the first in which the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments have been staged concurrently, with all three finals to be played on the same weekend.


Brad Walter – NRL

On this day in 2005

Australia lose an international series for the first time in 27 years when they are trounced 24-0 by New Zealand in the final of the Tri-Nations tournament in Leeds. The victory is the Kiwis’ first series win over Australia since 1953.


New Zealand Rugby League is saddened to hear of the passing of Kiwi #324 William Bevin Keith Hough.

Hough passed away on Monday 25 November 2019 in Tauranga. He will be remembered as a New Zealand sportsman who represented New Zealand in long jump at the British Empire Games and played twelve Tests for the New Zealand Kiwis from 1950 to 1953.

Representing Auckland, Hough won the 1948 New Zealand under-19 long jump title. He went on to win the national men’s long jump championship in each of the following three years. At the 1950 British Empire Games in Auckland Hough leapt 23 ft 7 3⁄8 in (7.20 m) to win the silver medal in the men’s long jump.

Hough played rugby league for the Richmond and Papakura clubs. He represented both Auckland and New Zealand, being selected for the Kiwis from 1950 to 1953 and playing in 12 test matches. During the 1951 French rugby league tour of Australia and Zealand, Hough was selected to play for both Auckland and New Zealand at winger.

His contribution to New Zealand Rugby League will not be forgotten.

The New Zealand Kiwis have moved to number one in the International Rugby League world rankings which have been announced after the conclusion of the 2019 international programme.

The Kiwis have built on their 2018 victories over Australia and England and their recent successes against Great Britain and Tonga to take the number one position.

Tonga remain in fourth spot but their historic victory over the second-placed Kangaroos has meant that they close the gap on England who now sit in third place.

New Zealand coach, Michael Maguire said “This is a great honour and it is good to be recognised but we know that the Kangaroos hold the silverware and that is our ultimate ambition.

“The International Rugby League Oceania Cup is a fantastic development for the Kiwis and the nations in this region. It provides a meaningful competition and is a real focus for our international programme.”

Papua New Guinea is one of the big movers in both the men’s and women’s rankings. The men have been recognised for their progress in the past 12 months as they move from 10th to 6th place and in the women’s section, from 6th place to 4th.

Kumuls head coach, Michael Marum sees the rise up the rankings as a natural part of their journey saying: “The PNG Kumuls going from 10th spot to 6th spot is really good for us. We can only go higher with more international fixtures.”

Orchids coach, Bagelo Solien commented:

“Going up two spots from 6th to 4th is pleasing after two test matches and we can only get better from here. It is good for the Women’s game nationally and internationally”

Commenting on the latest rankings, International Rugby League chief executive officer, Nigel Wood said:

“Firstly, I would like to congratulate New Zealand on achieving their number one position. It is fully deserved based upon their recent excellent performances with 4 wins from their last 5 international games.

“Tonga has possibly been the story of the recent internationals and they deserve all the plaudits that they have received. They have certainly cemented their place as a genuine top four-nation and, along with other Pacific nations, throws the competition wide open for Rugby League World Cup 2021.”

Latest Rankings November 2019


  1. New Zealand +3
  2. Australia -1
  3. England – 1
  4. Tonga =
  5. Fiji =
  6. PNG +4
  7. Samoa =
  8. France -2
  9. Scotland -1
  10. Lebanon -1
  11. Greece =5
  12. Ireland =
  13. Italy +1
  14. Wales -3
  15. Serbia +4
  16. Malta +1
  17. Norway +1
  18. USA -3
  19. Poland +4
  20. Jamaica -7
  21. Hungary -1
  22. Czech Republic -3
  23. Cook Islands +5
  24. Turkey +7
  25. Netherlands -1
  26. Spain +4
  27. Canada -6
  28. Nigeria New
  29. Solomon Islands -2
  30. Sweden +10
  31. Germany +4
  32. Chile +1
  33. Ghana New
  34. Morocco +16
  35. Vanuatu -3
  36. South Africa =
  37. Russia – 8
  38. Cameroon New
  39. Ukraine -2
  40. Colombia +1
  41. Brazil +4
  42. Belgium =
  43. Denmark +4
  44. Bulgaria +4
  45. Latvia +4



  1. Australia =
  2. New Zealand =
  3. England =
  4. Papua New Guinea +2
  5. Canada -1
  6. France -1
  7. Cook Islands -2
  8. Italy =
  9. Serbia New
  10. Fiji New
  11. Turkey New
  12. Samoa New
  13. Brazil New
  14. Lebanon -6


New Zealand Rugby League congratulates Kiwi #779, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, on winning the prestigious IRL Golden Boot Award for 2019.

The Otahuhu Leopards junior is now recognised as the best current player in international rugby league, beating fellow Kiwis teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Tonga star (and former NZ Kiwi) Siosiua Taukeiaho.

Roger is no stranger to success, the 2017 Kiwis Player of the Year was awarded the Dally M Player of the Year and Fullback of the Year in 2018, he also received Warriors Player of the Year this season, making history as the first player to win the award across three successive years.

Roger debuted for the Kiwis back in 2013 and to date has scored an impressive 14 tries in 20 tests totalling 56 points.

“I can’t think of anyone more deserving to receive such an accolade,” says NZRL CEO, Greg Peters.

“Roger has always worn the Kiwis Jersey with pride and this is reflected in his on-field performances and by his impressive and evergrowing list of accolades.

“We talk about the Kiwi Way and he completely optimises this, he acts as a role model to so many Kiwi kids not only in New Zealand but abroad and his impact on our game and those who play it is monumental.

“It’s exciting we have players of this calibre wearing the Black and White jersey and inspiring the next generation of Kiwis to come. We are extremely proud of Roger and all that he’s achieved and we can’t thank him enough for his ongoing dedication and service to the Kiwis jersey,” Peters concludes.

“Receiving this Golden award is a huge honour,” says Sheck.

“Thank you to all those who voted, the players in the shortlist are all world-class and I’m very honoured to have been considered alongside them.

“Putting on the Black and White jersey and representing my country is always a privilege and winning this Golden Boot award is a huge honour. Thank you to the IRL, NZRL and of course my family as without their love and support none of this would be possible. This year’s campaign has been one to remember, and although being away from my family was difficult, this makes it all worth it, this award is for them.”


Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s key milestone achievements:


Dally M Winger Of The Year – 2013

RLIF Winger Of The Year – 2013

Dally M Fullback Of The Year – 2015, 2018

RLW Player of the Year – 2015

NZRL / Kiwis Player of the Year – 2017

Dally M Player Of The Year – 2018

IRL Golden Boot Winner – 2019

NZRL is pleased to announce that Australian based apparel brand, BLK, will be its official apparel provider from 1 January 2020 through to 31 December 2023.

“We are no stranger to the quality BLK provide as we have partnered with this world-renowned clothing brand in the past,” says NZRL CEO, Greg Peters.

“We are excited to be working with BLK over the next couple of years as we head into busy periods of growth for the organisation on and off the field, as well as the soon approaching 2021 World Cup.” Peters concludes.

“Three years ago BLK made a very clear brand decision to only partner with teams that create global excitement, treat all athletes equally regardless of gender and believe in the power of sport not just the business of sport,” says BLK CEO, Tyron Brant.

“It is wonderful to have the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns back in BLK; we are excited to bring the full power of our global reach, innovation and creativity to partner with New Zealand Rugby League and grow both brands globally.”


A dominant New Zealand performance in the second and final Test against Great Britain on Saturday night saw the Kiwis win 23-8 and secure their first series victory over the Lions in 21 years.

After emerging 12-8 winners in a dour affair a week earlier in Auckland, the Kiwis found their attacking mojo in Christchurch with returning playmaker Shaun Johnson a leading contributor, terrorising Great Britain’s makeshift left edge which included regular five-eighth Blake Austin playing on the wing.

Having run out of specialist outside back, coach Wayne Bennett named Austin on the wing following the late withdrawal of Zak Hardaker with a shoulder injury on Friday.

Another standout for the home side was Jamayne Isaako who scored 11 points via four penalties, a conversion and a late field goal.

The Brisbane winger was playing his first Test in his hometown of Christchurch with his terminally ill father Taai watching on from the crowd.

The Kiwis led 16-2 at half-time thanks to tries from Joseph Manu and Shaun Johnson, along with eight points off the boot of Isaako.

Earlier New Zealand got the scoring started thanks to a penalty in front of the posts, which came after Austin dropped a Johnson bomb and gifted them back-to-back sets with the ball.

But three minutes later Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was ruled to have taken too long to leave a tackle and Gareth Widdop locked things up with a penalty of his own.

Despite bringing in another towering bomb sent his way, Austin was promptly bundled into touch and on the next set centre Joseph Manu made the Lions pay, bouncing out of a three-man tackle to slam the ball down.

Isaako then landed two penalty goals in the space of four minutes to stretch the Kiwis’ lead to 10-2 on the half hour.

Cleary out to prove a point after being dropped from the national team for the first time in his career last week, Johnson earned a repeat set with a pinpoint long kick into the in-goal area and then produced a brilliant individual run to score New Zealand’s second.

After standing up Elliott Whitehead with some dazzling footwork the Sharks playmaker weaved his way over, with Isaako converting for a 16-2 lead at the break.

More points following in the second spell for the Kiwis, and after getting his side into attacking position with a powerful run where he broke five tackles, Ken Maumalo scored his fifth Test try with an athletic finish in the corner.

Trailing 20-2 with half an hour to play Great Britain needed something to spark them to life, and got it in the way of a late Josh Jones offload which resulted in a try to Josh Hodgson.

Widdop converted to reduce the deficit to 12, but hopes of building momentum were thwarted when Alex Walmsley dropped the ball 10 metres off the Lions’ line on the very next set.

Great Britain were twice denied tries by video referee Henry Perenara inside the final 20 minutes.

First John Bateman was found to have missed the ball on a desperate effort to ground it before the dead ball line, before Jake Connor was ruled to have knocked on in the lead up to a would-be try nine minutes from time.

With any hope of a comeback now lost, Great Britain were dealt one final blow when Isaako slotted a field goal and another penalty to stretch the final deficit.

The Lions have little time to lick their wounds, with a clash against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby awaiting them next Saturday.

Shaun Johnson and Brandon Smith have been recalled by the New Zealand Kiwis for Saturday’s second Test against the Great Britain Lions at Orangetheory Stadium in Christchurch (8.00pm kick-off).

Johnson comes back in at standoff replacing the injured Kieran Foran while Smith, stood down last week, returns at hooker as the Kiwis seek a series-clinching win after taking out last Saturday’s first Test 12-8 at Eedn Park.

Kodi Nikorima, brought in at the 11th hour to replace Smith, moves to the interchange after his heroic performance in Auckland.

Despite arriving in camp late on Friday night and not training with the side, Nikorima was on the field for 76 minutes, making a game-high 53 tackles.

In another change, rookie international Corey Harawira-Naera is named in the second row for Kenny Bromwich, who returned to Melbourne on Sunday to be with his wife for the birth of their second child. Bromwich is on an extended bench should he be able to return in time for the second Test.

Added to the bench in Harawira-Naera’s place is the experienced Kevin Proctor.

The Kiwis go into the contest hunting their first series victory against Great Britain since 1998.



8.00pm, Saturday, November 9, 2019

Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch





(Vodafone Warriors)


(Vodafone Warriors)


(Canberra Raiders)


(Sydney Roosters)


(Brisbane Broncos)


(Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)


(Wests Tigers)


(Sydney Roosters)


(Melbourne Storm)


(Sydney Roosters)


(Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)


(Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)


(Canberra Raiders)


(Vodafone Warriors)


(Gold Coast Titans)


(Vodafone Warriors)


(Vodafone Warriors)


(Melbourne Storm)


(Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)


(Melbourne Storm)


(Canberra Raiders)


(Vodafone Warriors)







Player Club Kiwi No Tests for NZ
LEESON AH MAU Vodafone Warriors 812 8
ADAM BLAIR Vodafone Warriors 732 50
KENNEATH BROMWICH Melbourne Storm 796 10
KIERAN FORAN Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 757 22
BRADEN HAMLIN UELE Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 822 1
COREY HARAWIRA-NAERA Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 823 2
JAHROME HUGHES Melbourne Storm 819 3
JAMAYNE ISAAKO Brisbane Broncos 808 4
SHAUN JOHNSON Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 774 31
JOSEPH MANU Sydney Roosters 815 7
BENJI MARSHALL Wests Tigers 717 30
KEN MAUMALO Vodafone Warriors 810 8
CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD Canberra Raiders 820 2
BRITON NIKORA Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 818 3
KODI NIKORIMA Vodafone Warriors 793 14
ISAIAH PAPALI’I Vodafone Warriors 817 1
KEVIN PROCTOR Gold Coast Titans 771 21
BRANDON SMITH Melbourne Storm 816 6
JOSEPH TAPINE Canberra Raiders 800 11
ZANE TETEVANO Sydney Roosters 821 2
ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK Vodafone Warriors 779 19
JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES Sydney Roosters 755 31


A rousing half-time speech from coach Michael Maguire seemed to do the trick as New Zealand defied the loss of Kieran Foran to hand Great Britain their second defeat in a row on their southern hemisphere tour with a 12-8 win at Auckland’s Eden Park on Saturday.

Maguire was seen on the dressing room cameras having a highly animated discussion with his players after a try-less first half. The message obviously hit the mark with the Kiwis executing a little better in the second, even though errors did creep in at times.

Wayne Bennett’s men couldn’t come up with the plays to break the Kiwis line often enough, although a try late in the second half to move them within four points made for a nail-biting finish.

But when Lions winger Jermaine McGillvary lost control of the ball over the line, after a bone-jolting tackle by Kenny Bromwich, the fight faded in the Great Britain side.

After a 14-6 loss to Tonga a week ago, the Lions now look toward Christchurch next Saturday (November 9) for a second crack at New Zealand.

The Kiwis suffered an early blow losing five-eighth Foran in the sixth minute to a dislocated shoulder. He was third man in for a regulation tackle on Great Britain lock James Graham.

Foran came out of the tackle clutching his left shoulder and after being attended to by a trainer, he left the field in a fair degree of pain. He returned to sit on the sideline with his arm tucked up inside his warm-up jacket.

Melbourne’s Jahrome Hughes came off the bench and joined Benji Marshall in the halves.

The Kiwis had already had disruption to the playing group with hooker Brandon Smith dropped from the starting line-up for failing to “meet team standards” according to former Kiwis winger and now Sky Sports television commentator Daryl Halligan.

The Kiwis drafted in former Broncos and now Warriors half Kodi Nikorima in the No.21 jersey on Saturday morning. He went straight into the No.9 role without the benefit of a captain’s run.

Despite all the upheaval, New Zealand opened the scoring with a Jamayne Isaako penalty in the seventh minute after Josh Hodgson was pinged for slowing down the ruck. Gareth Widdop replied for Great Britain and the score remained 2-2 until the half-time whistle.

A break upfield by Joey Manu, who had Marshall in support, looked like producing the first try of the game in the 39th minute. But the movement broke down inside the Lions’ 10-metre zone.

In the second half, the man most likely to do something did it when Roger Tuivasa-Sheck broke through two defenders, tried to step fullback Jonny Lomax, but still managed to get the ball to Isaako who ran unchallenged to the line.

It sparked something in the Kiwis camp as it looked like they’d scored again two minutes later, when Briton Nikora chased through a Marshall kick. But replays showed he had knocked on in the lead-up.

They didn’t have to wait long though as bench forward Corey Harawira-Naera jostled with four defenders before grounding the ball under the posts. Isaako hadn’t converted his own try but didn’t miss this time and it was 12-2.

Tempers flared twice in the second half with players clashing – first when Joe Tapine was penalised for a late tackle on James Graham and then Tuivasa-Sheck was penalised for pushing John Bateman.

But still the Lions couldn’t score off the two extra sets given to them.

Interchange forward Daryl Clark did barge his way over in the 68th minute after spinning out of Manu’s tackle and with Widdop’s conversion suddenly things got more interesting at 12-8. In the end it wasn’t enough.

Long-time Kiwis servant Adam Blair got to celebrate his 50th Test in style after leading the team out onto the park and giving a spine-chilling version of the Haka.


Margie McDonald

Senior Reporter NRL.com


Adam Blair will achieve the rare honour of playing 50 Tests while Kieran Foran will make his first international appearance in more than two years when the New Zealand Kiwis meet the Great Britain Lions in the first Test at Eden Park on Saturday (5.00pm kick-off).

Veteran Northland-born and raised Blair (33) will become only the ninth player in history – and just the second New Zealander after Ruben Wiki – to reach the 50-Test milestone.

Blair seemed set to be stranded on 48 Tests after missing selection for the mid-year clash against Mate Ma’a Tonga and initially being overlooked for the end-of-season internationals against the Kangaroos and the Lions.

However, the 311-game NRL forward came into the squad as an injury replacement for the World Cup 9s in Sydney and earned a Test recall for the Oceania Cup match against the Kangaroos in Wollongong last Friday night.

Canterbury-Bankstown play maker Foran (29) returns to the Test stage for the first time since May, 2017, partnering captain Benji Marshall in the halves. Replacing Shaun Johnson, he will be making his 22nd appearance for the Kiwis since his debut 10 years ago.

In other changes to the side which lost 4-26 to Australia, Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire has moved Sydney Roosters middle forward Zane Tetevano into the starting front row after he made his debut from the bench last Friday night. Vodafone Warriors prop Leeson Ah Mau is switched to the bench.

Canberra back rower Joseph Tapine, who served a one-game suspension last week, is recalled to start at loose forward in his 11th Test with Blair now on the bench and Braden Hamlin-Uele, one of four debutants against Australia, moving out of the squad. Melbourne utility Jahrome Hughes and Canterbury-Bankstown back rower Corey Harawira-Naera complete the interchange.

This Saturday’s match will be the Kiwis’ first against the Great Britain Lions since a three-Test series in England in 2007.

It will be the second leg of an international triple header at Eden Park. It kicks off with a second-tier Oceania Cup match between Toa Samoa and Fiji Bati (2.20pm kick-off) with the Kiwis v Great Britain encounter followed by the Kangaroos taking on Tonga International (7.40pm kick-off). The Tongans come into the match after stunning the Lions 14-6 in Hamilton last Saturday.





(in chronological order)


Jim Sullivan (Wales, England, Great Britain) 1921-1934 | 54 internationals

Mick Sullivan (England, Great Britain) 1954-1962 | 50 internationals

Ruben Wiki (New Zealand) 1994-2006 | 55 internationals

Adrian Morley (England, Great Britain) 1996-2012 | 53 internationals

Darren Lockyer (Australia) 1997-2011 | 59 internationals

Petero Civoniceva (Australia, Fiji) 2001-2014 | 51 internationals

Cameron Smith (Australia) 2006-2017 | 56 internationals

James Graham (Great Britain, England) 2006-2019 | 50 internationals



5.00pm, Saturday, November 2, 2019

Eden Park, Auckland





(Vodafone Warriors)


(Vodafone Warriors)


(Canberra Raiders)


(Sydney Roosters)


(Brisbane Broncos)


(Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)


(Wests Tigers)


(Sydney Roosters)


(Melbourne Storm)


(Sydney Roosters)


(Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)


(Melbourne Storm)


(Canberra Raiders)


(Melbourne Storm)


(Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)


(Vodafone Warriors)


(Vodafone Warriors)


(Gold Coast Titans)


(Canberra Raiders)



Damien Cook celebrated his homecoming by spearheading a new-look Kangaroos side to a 26-4 win over New Zealand in front of 18,104 fans at WIN Stadium on Friday night.

Cook, who grew up at Helensburgh and was a member of Stanwell Park Surf Lifesaving Club, broke the Kiwis’ hearts with a 70-metre intercept try midway through the second half and used his speed from dummy half to put James Tedesco over to seal the win.

It was a clinical performance by the Kangaroos to avenge last year’s Test loss to New Zealand in Auckland and put them in the box seat to secure the inaugural Oceania Cup Trophy if they can beat Tonga next Saturday at Eden Park.

In some ways the Kiwis could feel they were unlucky as two of Australia’s first three tries were scored from intercepts but they didn’t create enough opportunities to seriously trouble Australia.

With the Kiwis missing props Jesse Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and James Fisher-Harris, it was no surprise that Australia fancied their chances in the middle and Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga chose two front-rowers on the bench.

Canberra prop Josh Papalii, the only survivor from Meninga’s first Test team in 2016, was a powerhouse, despite carrying a rib cartilage injury into the game.

Papalii ran 80 metres from seven carries with the ball in his first 23-minute stint before being replaced by Payne Haas.

One of five debutants in the Australian team, Haas is the youngest forward to wear the green-and-gold jersey since Brad Fittler in 1990 and he made a stunning first-up impression as he carried the ball for 102 metres from just seven runs before half-time.

By the end of his 37-minute stint, 19-year-old Haas had ran the ball for 174 metres from 13 carries – the most by any forward on either side.

David Klemmer ran the ball for 154 metres, while Papalii finished the game with 145 metres and interchange prop Paul Vaughan, another debutant, ran for 120 metres.

The Kangaroos posted first points when centre Latrell Mitchell landed an eighth minute penalty goal and they looked set to go further ahead after Papalii put Jake Trbojevic over in the 15th minute but the Manly lock knocked on.

However, there was no doubt when Mitchell intercepted a floating pass from Shaun Johnson 20 metres out from the Australian line and sent winger Josh Addo-Carr racing away for his first Test try in the 20th minute.

Kangaroos second-rower Tyson Frizell then put the home side further ahead in the 27th minute when he stepped Marshall after receiving the ball on the New Zealand tryline and dived over to score.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad got the Kiwis on the scoreboard when he powered over out wide after Roger Tuivasa-Sheck chimed into the backline from a 35th minute scrum win but it was the only points New Zealand managed all night.

Their best scoring chance in the second half came in the 54th minute as the Kiwis threw the ball around near the Australian line but Cook struck a huge blow when he intercepted an Adam Blair pass and ran 70 metres to score.

Cook was at his electrifying best again five minutes later when he burst out of dummy half and exposed some tired marker defence before finding James Tedesco to score under the posts.

Trbojevic had another try disallowed late in the match and a 76th minute Daly Cherry-Evans penalty goal completed the scoring.

The New Zealand Rugby League has expressed its sadness and extended its sympathies to former Kiwi coach Brian McClennan and his family following the tragic loss of ex-New Zealand international Mike McClennan.

McClennan’s body was found near Hatfields Beach last night after he had gone missing from a rest home in Orewa last Wednesday.

“This is terribly sad for Brian and the McClennan family as well as our rugby league community,” said New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters.

“We are all feeling for the family at this time, especially in a week when the Kiwis are about to play the Kangaroos.

“Mike had the deepest passion for rugby league. He was a proud Kiwi international and went on to achieve so much as a coach both in New Zealand and in England.

“We pass on our deepest sympathies.”

McClennan’s only Test for the Kiwis was one of the greatest in New Zealand’s history – the stunning 24-3 win over Australia at Carlaw Park in 1971.

He then made the history-making tour to Great Britain and France later that year when the Kiwis won both Test series in England and France.

The outspoken McClennan (Kiwi #488) went on to become one of New Zealand’s most successful and innovative coaches.

He dominated the Auckland club scene in the 1980s achieving multiple Fox Memorial premiership triumphs with the Mount Albert Lions and Northcote Tigers before coaching St Helens in England from 1990-1993.

As well as being an assistant Kiwi coach during Graham Lowe’s reign in the 1980s, McClennan coached Tonga at the 1995 Rugby League World Cup when the Tongans came within one point of stunning the Kiwis.


Four debutants including starting centre Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad have today been confirmed to line up for the New Zealand Kiwis in Friday night’s Oceania Cup Test against the Kangaroos at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.

Nicoll-Klokstad (24) is one of four changes to the starting line-up used in the Kiwis’ 34-14 win over Mate Ma’a Tonga in June.

With Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at fullback, the Canberra custodian replaces the injured Esan Marsters while Jamayne Isaako comes in for injured captain Dallin Watene-Zeleniak on the right wing, Leeson Ah Mau starts in the front row for Jesse Bromwich, out with a foot injury, and veteran Adam Blair comes into loose forward for Isaac Liu (knee).

Nicoll-Klokstad apart, the other debutants are all on the bench – forwards Zane Tetevano, Braden Hamlin-Uele and Corey Harawira-Naera. They fill vacancies created by Ah Mau moving into the starting line-up plus Nelson Asofa-Solomona being suspended and James Fisher-Harris injured.

Benji Marshall (34), playing just his second Test since 2012, has now been recalled as captain seven years after last filling the role against the Kangaroos in Townsville. This will be his 20th match as captain, taking him clear of Gary Freeman for the record for the most Tests as Kiwi captain.

Blair also has a milestone in sight despite not being originally selected. He was called up as a replacement for the World Cup 9s last week, going on to play in the final.

His appearance on Friday night takes him to 49 Tests with the chance of becoming just the second New Zealander to play 50 Tests in Saturday week’s first Test against the touring Great Britain Lions.





8.10pm, Friday, October 25, 2019

WIN Stadium, Wollongong





(Vodafone Warriors)


(Vodafone Warriors)


(Canberra Raiders)


(Sydney Roosters)


(Brisbane Broncos)


(Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)


(Wests Tigers)


(Vodafone Warriors)


(Melbourne Storm)


(Sydney Roosters)


(Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)


(Melbourne Storm)


(Vodafone Warriors)


(Melbourne Storm)


(Sydney Roosters)


(Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)


(Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)


(Gold Coast Titans)


(Canberra Raiders)


(Vodafone Warriors)


(Vodafone Warriors)




Four months after making his international comeback following a seven-year absence, halfback Benji Marshall will now captain the New Zealand Kiwis for the first time since 2012 in a record 20th Test as skipper in Friday night’s Oceania Cup match against the Kangaroos at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.

Head coach Michael Maguire announced the appointment in Sydney today as the Kiwis began their preparation for the encounter after Saturday night’s loss to Australia in the World Cup 9s tournament.

Marshall wasn’t used in the short-form game to prepare for the end-of-season Test campaign which continues after this week’s match with two clashes against the Great Britain Lions in Auckland on November 2 and Christchurch on November 9.

He replaces the unavailable Dallin Watene-Zelezniak who led the Kiwis in their last five Tests against Australia, England and Tonga.

Marshall’s 29th Test since his debut in 2005 will take him ahead of Gary Freeman for the most Tests as Kiwi captain. They were level on 19 after Marshall was captain in the 10-18 loss to the Kangaroos in Townsville in October, 2012.

The 26-year-old Whakatane-born standoff led the Kiwis for the first time when he stood in for an injured Nathan Cayless against England in Newcastle during the triumphant 2008 Rugby League World Cup campaign.

When Cayless retired from representative football in early 2009, coach Stephen Kearney gave the captaincy to the then 24-year-old Wests Tigers playmaker.


A hat-trick from the player of the tournament Mitchell Moses helped Australia overcome New Zealand 24-10 to claim the inaugural men’s World Cup 9s title.

After a weight of possession, New Zealand crossed first when Reimis Smith athletically touched down in the corner courtesy of a brilliant bat-on by Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

Australia briefly hit the front through a converted Moses bonus zone try but Kiwis winger Jamayne Isaako responded straight away with his seventh try of the competition and the ensuing sideline goal.

However, the brilliance of Eels halfback Moses put the Kangaroos ahead 13-10 at half-time as he burnt the defence to notch another four-pointer on his home turf.

Kyle Feldt powered over for a try in the second stanza, much to the chagrin of many fans who claimed the Cowboys winger committed a double-movement and planted the ball short.

But Moses, who finished with 20 points, ensured that debate was moot when he backed up a bulldozing David Fifita bust to reach the bonus zone and secure the coveted trophy.

The Kiwis will look for redemption next Friday at the Trans-Tasman double header.

Updated: 7:30pm AED

Men’s semi-final 1: Kiwis 22 beat England 6

New Zealand became the first team through to the men’s World Cup 9s final after cruising to a 22-6 win against England.

Shaun Johnson was largely to thank for the Kiwis’ fast start. He firstly produced a try-saver on Jermaine McGillvary that jolted the ball loose, allowing Ken Maumalo to scoot away for the opening points.

Next, the mercurial playmaker perfectly summed up a blindside overlap to put Jamayne Isaako over in the corner for a 10-nil lead at the break.

Reimis Smith drove a dagger into England’s hearts with a try to start the second stanza before McGillvary latched onto a cross-field kick to get his side on the board.

There was no big fightback, however, as Isaako crossed for his sixth try of the tournament to ensure the Kiwis progressed to the decider.

Kiwi Ferns 33 v England 4(women)

A sensational team try finished off by Kanyon Paul was the highlight of the Kiwi Ferns’ 33-4 win over England which locked up a berth in the final against Australia.

All the Kiwi Ferns’ big guns got their hands on the ball before Paul plunged over in the bonus zone to put New Zealand on a collision course with their arch rivals in the women’s decider.

Krystal Rota opened the scoring for the Kiwis before England hit back through Amy Hardcastle but it was all New Zealand from there.

After leading 19-4 at the break the Kiwis stretched their advantage early in the second when Rota crossed wide out for her double.

Hireme then crossed for her second try to join Jillaroo Tiana Penitani as the tournament’s leading try-scorer with four.

Kiwis 46 defeated USA 0 (men)

New Zealand have tuned up for the World Cup 9s semi-finals with a runaway 46-0 win over the USA at Bankwest Stadium.

With playmaking maestro Shaun Johnson calling the shots the Kiwis ran in four first-half tries to blow the Hawks off the park.

Warriors winger Ken Maumalo got the scoring underway when he scored try off a lovely Kodi Nikorima pass and then it was Johnson’s turn to cross the stripe when he dazzled the defence to score in the bonus zone.

Jamayne Isaako and Bailey Simonsson rounded out the scoring in the opening nine minutes as the Kiwis led 19-0 at the break.

There was a slight scare for the Kiwis when Johnson limped off early in the second half but he is expected to be fine for the semi-finals.

Even with Johnson off the field the continued to flow as Maumalo bagged four tries and New Zealand’s offloads proved too much for the USA.

Kiwis 18 defeat PNG 17 (men)

Canberra’s Bailey Simonsson scored the match-winning try for New Zealand in a nail-biting affair against a resurgent Papua New Guinea side.

Kiwis half Shaun Johnson made his presence felt early. He put Jamayne Isaako into the clear and then backed up the Broncos winger to take the pass back inside. Johnson then danced around Kumul defenders to ground the ball beneath the posts for a five-point try.

The Kumuls had two tries disallowed in either corner for putting a foot into touch. But their first points came off the long arm of Edene Gebbie, reaching over into the black box as PNG responded with their own five-pointer to lock up scores 7-7 at half-time.

Then lead changed four times in seven minutes in the second half.

PNG edged ahead ahead through Edwin Ipape sending a flick pass to teammate Nixon Putt to score. But the Kiwis grabbed the lead back (14-13) with their second five-pointer, through Jeremy Sharshall-King this time. The Kumuls weren’t done with Storm’s Justin Olam scoring, but Simonsson gave the Kiwis the last laugh.

Kiwi Ferns 24 beat Papua New Guinea 12 (women)

The Kiwi Ferns bounced back from the 22-8 loss to Australia on Friday night with a five-tries-to-two win over the PNG Orchids on a sunny Saturday morning to stay in the hunt for Saturday night’s final.

A brace to winger Kiana Takairangi set up New Zealand’s 14-6 half-time lead. She beat the Orchids for pace in her first and then benefitted from a weaving Nita Maynard run for her second.

PNG’s Ua Ravu scored her second try of the tournament by running around Ferns centre Honey Hireme-Smiler but then the New Zealander made up for the error scoring a double herself either side of the break.

Kangaroos 25 beat Kiwis 12

Australia opened their World Cup 9s in scintillating fashion with Josh Addo-Carr running free and David Fifita running rampant in a 25-12 win over New Zealand.

It took Addo-Carr less than a minute to open his tryscoring account when he cashed in on Wade Graham’s skilful lead-up work.

The Storm flyer made it two soon after and again Graham was the provider, this time with a perfectly weighted kick for ‘The Fox’ to chase.

New Zealand hit back when Jamayne Isaako latched onto a long ball from Shaun Johnson to score but the home side was in again when Fifita and Ryan Papenhuyzen combined to put Kyle Feldt over.

Rampaging Bronco Fifita then powered across for a four-pointer of his own to put the result beyond doubt but Johnson had some more magic up his sleeve to send Isaako across for a second try.

Fifita then capped a stunning night when he showed off all his athleticism to cross wideout.

Jillaroos 22 beat Kiwi Ferns 8 (women)

The instructions from Jillaroos coach Brad Donald were to start fast and Australian co-captain Ali Brigginshaw obliged by setting up the first two Jillaroos tries before scoring one of her own.

A chip-chase paid off for the Broncos half as she scored a five-point try under the Bankwest Stadium goal posts. It blew the score out to 22-0 and despite two comeback tries by the Ferns through speedster wingers Atawhai Tupaea and Jules Newman, Australia enjoyed a comfortable 22-8 win.

“They came out firing and we couldn’t keep up. We were definitely behind the eight-ball at the start and gave them too much possession. We ended up chasing our tails all day,” Ferns utility Nita Maynard.

The New Zealand Rugby League has passed on its sympathies to Jeremy Marshall-King and his whanau following the death of his father Shane King in a car accident near Tauranga this week.

Marshall-King, half-brother of Kiwi legend Benji Marshall, was in camp with the New Zealand World Cup Nines team in Sydney when he learned of the crash.

Shane King (51), of Putaruru, was involved in an accident on State Highway 29 in the Lower Kaimai area on Tuesday night. Police divers later found his body inside the car which had ended up submerged in the Wairoa River after leaving the road.

Marshall-King spent the day with family on Wednesday before returning to camp, telling team management and his fellow players that it was his wish to play in the World Cup Nines in honour of his father.

He is set to make his Kiwi debut in New Zealand’s opening match against Australia at the tournament tonight.

“We are all feeling for Jeremy and his family and have rallied around him to give him all the support we can this week,” said Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire.

“He had time away but has told us he wants to play for his country and we’re all behind him to help him achieve his goal.

“We also wish to pass on our deepest condolences to Jeremy’s family at this sad time.”

The Kiwis and the Kiwi Ferns will wear black armbands as a mark of respect to the Marshall-King family when they line up in their matches against Australia tonight.


New Zealand Kiwis head coach Michael Maguire has today confirmed veteran forward Adam Blair has been brought into the squad for the World Cup Nines at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney starting tomorrow.

He arrived from Auckland early this morning in time for the team’s final training session at Leichhardt Oval before tomorrow night’s opening pool game against Australia (9.00pm kick-off local time).

Blair (33), with 48 Tests and 311 NRL appearances to his name, comes in for would-be debutant Braden Hamlin-Uele. The Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks interchange forward will sit out the World Cup Nines to prepare for the Tests to follow against the Kangaroos and the Great Britain Lions.

Blair had an eventful last 24 hours before joining the team, flying home to Auckland just yesterday after a family holiday on the Gold Coast and then being booked on an early flight to Sydney today.

Earlier in the week Sydney Roosters forward Zane Tetevano and Canberra Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad replaced the unavailable James Fisher-Harris and Jordan Rapana.





LEESON AH MAU (Vodafone Warriors)

ADAM BLAIR (Vodafone Warriors)

*DYLAN BROWN (Parramatta Eels)

*COREY HARAWIRA-NAERA (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

JAMAYNE ISAAKO (Brisbane Broncos)

SHAUN JOHNSON (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)

*JEREMY MARSHALL-KING (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

KEN MAUMALO (Vodafone Warriors)


BRITON NIKORA (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)

KODI NIKORIMA (Vodafone Warriors)

KEVIN PROCTOR (Gold Coast Titans)

*BAILEY SIMONSSON (Canberra Raiders)

*REIMIS SMITH (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

JOSEPH TAPINE (Canberra Raiders)

*ZANE TETEVANO (Sydney Roosters)


New Zealand Kiwis playmaker Shaun Johnson and Kiwi Ferns centre Honey Hireme – Smiler have today been confirmed to captain the national teams in the inaugural World Cup Nines at Sydney’s Bankwest Stadium on Friday and Saturday.

Johnson (29) and Hireme (38) aren’t only the most seasoned international players in each of the squads but they can also draw on significant experience in the nines game.

Johnson appeared in each of the four NRL Nines tournaments at Eden Park in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, captaining the Vodafone Warriors in the first three before the legendary Ruben Wiki led the side in 2017.

Hireme also featured on the same stage twice in 2016 and 2017 for the Kiwi Ferns against the Jillaroos.

The first appearances for the pair were in central Sydney today when the Kiwis and the Kiwi Ferns gathered with every squad at the Botanical Gardens overlooking the harbour.

The full squads from the 16 competing countries – 12 men and four women – were captured in a number of photos including a spectacular one of all teams lined up together.

Johnson leads a 16-man team which features eight players yet to play for the Kiwis. The squad assembled in Sydney on Monday, having its first field session at Leichhardt Oval yesterday.

The Kiwi Ferns also trained for the first time yesterday. One change has been made to the side with Warriors hooker Kanyon Paul coming into the Kiwi Ferns for the first time as a late replacement for unavailable Brisbane dummy half Lavinia Gould.

The Kiwi Ferns open their campaign against the Jillaroos on Friday night with two more pool games against England and Papua New Guinea on Saturday night. The top two teams go into the final.

The Kiwis meet the Kangaroos on Friday night and have two more pool games against Papua New Guinea and the United States on Saturday. The top two teams from the group go into the semi-finals involving the winners of the other two pools. England is grouped with Wales, France and Lebanon in one pool while Tonga Invitational leads the remaining pool alongside Toa Samoa, Fiji Bati and Cook Islands.


Auckland, New Zealand, October 10, 2019 – Braden Hamlin-Uele, Corey Harawira-Naera, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Zane Tetevano are in line to make their debuts in the New Zealand Kiwis’ coming Tests against the Kangaroos and the Great Britain Lions.

The four players have all been named tonight in a squad which also features returns for winger Jamayne Isaako and back rowers Kevin Proctor and Joseph Tapine who weren’t involved in the June Test victory over Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium.

Tokoroa product Tetevano now has a third opportunity to play his first Test.

He was selected but then ruled out of last year’s end-of-season programme with injury and was then in the 19-man squad but didn’t make the playing 17 when the Kiwis beat Mate Ma’a Tonga 34-14 in June.

A premiership winner with the Sydney Roosters last year, the 28-year-old was a regular again throughout this season totalling 23 appearances but suffered further disappointment when, after being named for the grand final against Canberra, he was ultimately omitted.

Northland-raised Canterbury-Bankstown second rower Harawira-Naera has earned a second chance of making his Test debut. Like Tetevano, he was originally selected in last year’s squad for the home Test against Australia and the following three-match series in England only to be ruled out with injury.

He played for the New Zealand Māori Kiwis in the match against the Australian Indigenous All-Stars in Melbourne in January and went on to make 21 appearances in his first season with the Bulldogs.

After previously representing the Cook Islands at Test level, Nicoll-Klokstad comes into the Kiwi squad for the first time after a superb season for beaten grand finalists the Canberra Raiders. He scored 11 tries in 25 appearances.

Glenora Bears junior and former Junior Kiwi Hamlin-Uele earns selection after impressing in 21 interchange appearances for the Sharks this year.

Harawira-Naera, Hamlin-Uele, Nicoll-Klokstad and Tetevano are also in the Kiwis’ World Cup Nines squad, Tetevano coming into both sides today after James Fisher-Harris was forced to withdraw with injury and Nicoll-Klokstad being called in to replace Jordan Rapana. Rapana was originally chosen in both sides but has now been ruled out; his replacement in the Test squad is yet to be named.

Of the 19 players in the squad for the Tonga Test in June, 15 return for the internationals against the Kangaroos and the Lions. Four of the playing 17 are unavailable due to injury – captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, prop Jesse Bromwich, centre Esan Marsters and back rower Fisher-Harris.

Three players from the premiership-winning Roosters side are named – centre Joseph Manu, back rower Isaac Liu and prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves – along with Tetevano while the beaten Raiders provide Nicoll-Klokstad and Tapine.

In all 11 players in the Test squad are also in the Kiwis’ World Cup Nines side.

The Nines players assemble in Sydney on Monday with the Test squad gathering on Sunday week.

The Kiwis begin their Test campaign with their Oceania Cup clash against the Kangaroos in Wollongong on Friday, October 25 before flying to New Zealand for two Tests against the reformed GB Rugby League Lions (Great Britain).

The first of these will be the second match of an international tripleheader at Auckland’s Eden Park on Saturday, November 2, which also features the Kangaroos facing Tonga Invitational and Toa Samoa taking on Fiji Bati in Oceania Cup matches.

The Kiwis then move to Christchurch for the second Test at Orangetheory Stadium (formerly AMI Stadium) on Saturday, November 9.


  • Buy tickets HERE for the Kiwis’ Tests against the GB Rugby League Lions








Oceania Cup

Friday, October 25              7.30pm         v Australia               WIN Stadium



First Test

Saturday, November 2        5.00pm         v Great Britain          Eden Park



Second Test

Saturday, November 9        8.00pm         v Great Britain          Orangetheory Stadium





Player Club Kiwi No Tests for NZ
LEESON AH MAU Vodafone Warriors 812 6
NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA Melbourne Storm 804 6
KENNEATH BROMWICH Melbourne Storm 796 8
KIERAN FORAN Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 757 21
BRADEN HAMLIN-UELE Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
COREY HARAWIRA-NAERA Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
JAHROME HUGHES Melbourne Storm 819 1
JAMAYNE ISAAKO Brisbane Broncos 808 2
SHAUN JOHNSON Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 774 30
ISAAC LIU Sydney Roosters 805 8
JOSEPH MANU Sydney Roosters 815 5
BENJI MARSHALL Wests Tigers 717 28
KEN MAUMALO Vodafone Warriors 810 6
BRITON NIKORA Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 818 1
KEVIN PROCTOR Gold Coast Titans 771 21
BRANDON SMITH Melbourne Storm 816 5
JOSEPH TAPINE Canberra Raiders 800 10
ZANE TETEVANO Sydney Roosters
ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK Vodafone Warriors 779 17
JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES Sydney Roosters 755 29

Thinking of going to the Rugby League TRIPLE-HEADER at Eden Park on November 2nd?



Join the Mad Butcher and the former Kiwis listed below. Mix and mingle with Rugby League royalty in the Mad Butcher lounge in the West stand at Eden Park – plus reserved match tickets directly in front of the lounge in the Lower West stand.

Gates open – 1:30pm
Samoa v Fiji – 2:20pm
Great Britain v New Zealand – 5pm
Australia v Tonga – 7:40pm

For more detail contact Bryan 021 848 411 or email [email protected]


Ray Baxendale (Kiwi #519) — played 16 Tests and 23
other matches for Kiwis from 1975 to 1981. West Coast and
Canterbury second-row forward. Captained South Island. Also
played for Wakefield Trinity.

Tony Coll (Kiwi #503) — played 30 Tests and 35 other
matches or Kiwis from 1972 to 1982. West Coast second-row
forward for 12 years. Captained Kiwis in 1977 World Cup and
South Island to beat Australia.

Bruce Gall (Kiwi #559) — played 3 Tests and 19 other
matches on tours to Britain, France, Australia and Papua New
Guinea in 1980 and 1982. Taranaki forward who also played for
Balmain in Sydney.

Mark Graham (Kiwi #535) — played 29 Tests and 16 other
matches for Kiwis from 1977 to 1988. Auckland backrow
forward who also played for Brisbane Norths, North Sydney
and Wakefield Trinity. Captain in 18 Tests and on two tours to
Britain and France.

Dane O’Hara (Kiwi #528) — played 36 Tests and 27 other
matches for Kiwis from 1977 to 1986. Auckland wing who
played for Hull FC from 1981 to 1989. Captained Kiwis in 1980
home series against Australia.

Lyndsay Proctor (Kiwi #507) – played 13 Tests and 16 other
matches for Kiwis from 1974 to 1978. Auckland prop who also
played for New Zealand XIII in 1981and for New Hunslet club
in England.

Ken Stirling (Kiwi #489) – played 22 Tests and 21 other
matches for Kiwis from 1971 to 1978. Auckland scrum-half who
played all seven Tests of New Zealand’s 1971 Grand Slam year.
Captain in 14 of his Tests.

Graeme West (Kiwi #517) – Played 18 Tests and 19 other
matches for Kiwis from 1975 to 1985. Taranaki forward who
captained Kiwis in 4 Tests. Also captained Wigan to win 1985
Challenge Cup final at Wembley.


Eight debutants have now been included in the 16-man New Zealand Kiwis squad for the World Cup Nines at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney on October 18 and 19.

When the line-up was originally named yesterday head coach Michael Maguire confirmed NRL rookies in Parramatta standoff Dylan Brown (19) and Canberra winger Bailey Simonsson (21) as well as second rower Corey Harawira-Naera (Canterbury Bankstown-Bulldogs), front rower Braden Hamlin-Uele (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), hooker Jeremy Marshall-King (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs) and winger Reimis Smith (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs).

In the past 24 hours Maguire has been forced to make two more changes after losing forward James Fisher-Harris and winger Jordan Rapana resulting in the inclusion today of two more players yet to play for the Kiwis – Sydney Roosters middle forward Zane Tetevano and Canberra Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

Simonsson, Marshall-King and Smith all have strong family connections in rugby league.

Simonsson’s father Paul was a 1987 All Black before switching from rugby union to rugby league when he played with the North Sydney Bears in the then Winfield Cup in 1991-92.

Marshall-King (23) makes the New Zealand team in the same year his older brother and rugby league legend Benji made his emotional Test comeback for the Kiwis against Mate Ma’a Tonga seven years after his last international.

And Smith (22) is the son of 1996-2000 Kiwi Tyran Smith, who played for seven clubs in his 188-game NRL career from 1993-2005.

Harawira-Naera (24) was originally named in the Kiwi squad for the end of season campaign against the Kangaroos and England last year before being ruled out with injury. Tetevano was also ruled out with injury after being selected for that campaign and wasn’t in the final 17 when he was with the Kiwis for their Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga in June.

While bringing in eight newcomers, Maguire has a squad built around Test players in halves Shaun Johnson and Kodi Nikorima, second rowers Kevin Proctor, Briton Nikora and Joseph Tapine, wingers Ken Maumalo and Jamayne Isaako and prop Leeson Ah Mau.

“This is a hugely exciting opportunity for the whole group playing in the World Cup Nines,” said Maguire.

“I’m especially excited for the new players we’ve been able to bring into the group.

“We’ve got players right across this squad who have come off terrific NRL seasons and have earned the privilege to represent New Zealand. For us, this is another step towards taking the Kiwi jersey to the place we want it to be.”

The New Zealand World Cup Nines squad assembles in Sydney next Monday.

Following the Nines, the Kiwis switch mode to Test football with their Oceania Cup clash against the Kangaroos in Wollongong on Friday, October 25 before flying to New Zealand for two Tests against the reformed GB Rugby League Lions (Great Britain).

The first of these will be the second match of an international tripleheader at Auckland’s Eden Park on Saturday, November 2, which also features the Kangaroos facing Tonga Invitational and Toa Samoa taking on Fiji Bati in Oceania Cup matches.

The Kiwis then move to Christchurch for the second Test at Orangetheory Stadium (formerly AMI Stadium) on Saturday, November 9.

The New Zealand Test squad will be announced tomorrow.


  • Buy tickets HERE for the Kiwis’ Tests against the GB Rugby League Lions





LEESON AH MAU (Vodafone Warriors)

*DYLAN BROWN (Parramatta Eels)

*COREY HARAWIRA-NAERA (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

*BRADEN HAMLIN-UELE (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)

JAMAYNE ISAAKO (Brisbane Broncos)

SHAUN JOHNSON (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)

*JEREMY MARSHALL-KING (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

KEN MAUMALO (Vodafone Warriors)


BRITON NIKORA (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)

KODI NIKORIMA (Vodafone Warriors)

KEVIN PROCTOR (Gold Coast Titans)

*BAILEY SIMONSSON (Canberra Raiders)

*REIMIS SMITH (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)

JOSEPH TAPINE (Canberra Raiders)

*ZANE TETEVANO (Sydney Roosters)


Debutants denoted by *

By warriors.kiwi & Photosport.nz

As seen on warriors.kiwi/news

New Zealand rugby league greats Ruben Wiki and Stacey Jones have tonight been revealed as two of the four players to join the NRL Hall of Fame in a formal induction ceremony in Sydney on Wednesday night.

In a momentous night for the game in New Zealand, they will be inducted alongside Australians Danny Buderus and Craig Young, joining 106 players previously honoured.

The Kiwi legends were among last year’s nominees when Kiwi legend and New Zealand player of the century Mark Graham (the first Kiwi included) was inducted along with Petero Civoniceva, Cliff Lyons, Steve Menzies, Ricky Stuart and Gorden Tallis.

And they were again included in a list of 25 nominees announced last week for this year’s intake.

Wiki (46) and Jones (43) were long-time Kiwi teammates throughout their careers, Wiki playing a then-world record 55 Tests from 1994 to 2006 while Jones made 46 Test appearances from 1995-2006; they also both captained the Kiwis.

Wiki became the first New Zealander to play 300 NRL games, finishing with a total of 312 appearances including 225 for Canberra and 87 for the Vodafone Warriors.

Jones played his entire NRL career with the Vodafone Warriors, making a club record 261 appearances (until Simon Mannering went ahead of him).

Wiki and Jones have both worked extensively for the Vodafone Warriors since their playing careers ended, Wiki as a strength and conditioning coach and Jones in a number of coaching positions (he’s now an NRL assistant coach).

They were both named in the New Zealand Rugby League’s Team of the Century and have both been included in the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.

A voting college representing a cross section of the game – scroll down to see college members – selected their top five players to be included in the exclusive Hall of Fame club. The four players were selected through an independent audit of the votes.

NRL Chief Executive Todd Greenberg said the four inductees were all worthy recipients of the honour.

“All four of our player inductees will stand proudly alongside the 106 players who they will join in the Hall of Fame,” Greenberg said.

“These are some of the best players of their generations, and they will now join the best of the best.

“They each dominated their respective eras and commanded enormous respect. They still do.

“This year’s Hall of Fame class is an exceptional one. We will be recognising greatness when our latest class are formally inducted.”

Senior manager of NRL awards Frank Puletua said the induction ceremony would be one of the most important nights on the calendar.

“This year, we will be acknowledging our contributors as well as our players,” Puletua said.

“The Hall of Fame induction has become an incredibly important night for the game as we take the opportunity to reflect on our pioneers and our finest players.

“All four of our player inductees can now forever be known as Hall of Famers, and that only adds to their standing in the game.”

Three contributors – one each from administration, broadcast media and print media – will be announced tomorrow ahead of the formal induction.

For more information on the NRL Hall of Fame and Immortals, please visit nrl.com/hall-of-fame/




Born: February 6, 1978, Taree, NSW

Junior Football: Taree United

Club: Newcastle Knights

Position: Hooker

Premiership Career 1997-2013: Newcastle Knights: Played 257. Points 246 (61 tries, 1 goal).

First Grade Debut: Newcastle v South Queensland at Marathon Stadium, 23/3/1997 (Rd 3)

Grand Finals: 1 – Newcastle 2001 (W)

Rep Career: Australia: Tests 24 (2001-06), Kangaroo tours 2001, 2003; Tri-Nations 2004, 2005. New South Wales: State of Origins 21 (2002-08). Country Origin: 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008



Born: May 7, 1976, Auckland, NZ

Junior Football: Point Chevalier

Club: Vodafone Warriors

Position: Halfback

Premiership Career 1995-2009: Vodafone Warriors: Played 261. Points 674 (77 tries, 176 goals, 14 field goals). Super League 2006-2007: Les Catalans: Played 45 games.

First Grade Debut: Warriors v Parramatta at Parramatta Stadium, 23/4/1995 (Rd 7)

Grand Finals: 1 – Warriors 2002 c (L)

Rep Career: New Zealand: Tests 46 (1995-2006), World Cups 1995, 2000, Tri-Nations 1999, 2005, 2006; Captained Kiwis in seven Tests



Born: January 21, 1973, Auckland, NZ

Junior Football: Otara Scorpions

Clubs: Canberra Raiders, Vodafone Warriors

Position: Centre/Second Row/Prop


Tickets are on sale at 12pm today for the Australia vs New Zealand Double-Header Test matches set to take place on October 25th at WIN Stadium in Wollongong.


Thousands of rugby league fans are expected to join the strong local support for the only Test Matches scheduled on Australian soil in 2019.


“The Australia-New Zealand rivalry is a special one and it will be the only occasion this year fans can witness both the male and female teams competing in official Test Matches,” NRL Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Abdo said.


“It is the best players in both the NRL and NRLW competing for the unofficial title of the world’s best.


“We hosted a great crowd for the last international played in Wollongong in 2014, and we are excited to be returning to this important rugby league region again this year.”


It will be the first time the Australian Kangaroos have faced the New Zealand Kiwis at WIN Stadium, with the women’s sides having clashed at the venue back in 2014.


New Zealand Rugby League Chief Executive Officer Greg Peters said: “Trans Tasman rivalry showcases everything that is great about our game.  To be able to see four of the World’s top Rugby League teams with points to prove in action on one day will make for a not to be missed fan experience. The Men’s match will also form part of the inaugural Oceania Cup and may well decide the winner of that trophy.”


The Harvey Norman Jillaroos held on for a nail-biting win over the Kiwi Ferns at Mt Smart on October 13 last year, while the Australian Kangaroos will be looking to avenge their 26-24 loss against the New Zealand Kiwis from the same day.


Tickets are available through Ticketmaster and nrl.com/tickets. Event-goers can also catch free train and shuttle services to and from WIN Stadium using just their event ticket, making public transport an attractive travel option for the event.


The Australia v New Zealand Double Header is supported by the New South Wales Government via Destination New South Wales.


The women’s and men’s matches will be broadcast live nationally across the Nine Network, Fox Sports and NRL Live Pass, and well as Sky NZ in New Zealand.

The Kiwis, Kangaroos, Great Britain Rugby League Lions and emerging Pacific powers Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are all set to hit New Zealand’s shores in October and November – and tickets are now on sale for the incredible blockbuster programme of international rugby league.

An Eden Park triple header that sees the Kiwis rekindle hostilities with old enemy The British Lions; the Kangaroos lock horns with Jason Taumalolo’s mighty Mate Ma’a Tonga; and Samoa and Fiji clash in a vital Oceania Cup showdown to showcase the international game on a single day at a single venue like never before.

With Christchurch also hosting a thrilling test match double header, and Hamilton welcoming back Tonga to the scene of their 2017 World Cup victory over the Kiwis – as they attempt to subdue another international superpower in the shape of Great Britain – New Zealand will play host to the best teams and players in the world over an incredible few weeks.

“This is an international rugby league spectacle which we’re not used to witnessing outside of the world cup,” NZRL chief executive Greg Peters said.

“The Oceania Cup and Lions Tour not only give fans and players more test match action but they highlight the quality of league being played around the globe.

“From the power and flare of our Pacific Nations to the long-awaited return of the GB Lions, these tests will shine a big spotlight on our game, as fans and players from both hemispheres set to congregate down under to witness nothing but world-class rugby league action.

“It’s a really promising time for rugby league, we know fans are already excited – so I’d urge people to get their tickets nice and early. We look forward to the blockbuster international calendar that awaits.”

International Rugby League Federation General Manager Southern Hemisphere Jeremy Edwards said the action-packed schedule was great for the entire Pacific region.

“It is the first time in many, many years we have got some meaningful content into the Pacific,” Edwards said.

“The Oceania Cup competition finally gives the nations down here a bit of respect.”

While the Kiwis, Kangaroos and Tonga are vying for the Oceania Cup, Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea also have plenty to play for with the Oceania Shield and promotion to the Cup competition up for grabs.

The winner of the Shield will replace Australia in the Cup competition in 2020.

“That not only gives the top team in Pool B a chance to move into Pool A, but allows us to bring in the Cook Islands to Pool B,” says Edwards. “The Cook Islands has produced some incredible rugby league players and they are doing really well at the moment. They have got a match in November against the USA for the final position in the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

“There is some really exciting stuff happening down here in the Pacific.”

Edwards said the return of the Great British Lions after a 12-year hiatus was also a huge positive for the international game.

“To be able to reinvigorate that and bring them down to this part of the world is really fantastic,” he said.

“And the desire for the Lions to go to Papua New Guinea to play the Kumuls says a lot about the development of rugby league in the Pacific. These matches open up so many doors for tourism and government opportunities – I think it is sensational.”

With Adult tickets starting from $20* (Christchurch and Hamilton) $25* (Auckland) and family passes from $50* (Christchurch and Hamilton) $60* (Auckland), Edwards said the triple header at Eden Park would provide tremendous value for money for rugby league fans.

“That is one of the things we have tried to do, to be able to appeal to Mum, Dad and the kids to come along and watch six great nations on family tickets that are really attractively priced.

“It’s three great matches of footy at a great venue, right in the middle of downtown Auckland. It’s a sensational evening of rugby league in rugby union heartland.”

The return of international rugby league to Christchurch and Hamilton after the cities successfully hosted matches during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup was also exciting, he said.

“Christchurch is a great venue, great city, beautiful scenery. Why not go and have a couple of days while you are there? And Hamilton is a great place as well with a great venue.”


Saturday October 26 –  FMG Stadium, Waikato

  • Great Britain Rugby League Lions v Mate Ma’a Tonga
  • Plus Physical Disabled Rugby League New Zealand South Pacific 9’s Challenge


Saturday November 2 – Eden Park Triple Header, Auckland

  • Toa Samoa v Fiji Bati
  • Great Britain Rugby League Lions v New Zealand Kiwis
  • Mate Ma’a Tonga v Australia Kangaroos


Saturday November 9 – Double Header, Orangetheory Stadium, Christchurch

  • Fiji Bati v Papua New Guinea Kumuls
  • Great Britain Rugby League Lions v New Zealand Kiwis


*Ticket pricing Plus Fees




The NRL has confirmed the three pools which will make up the inaugural Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019, to be held at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta on October 18-19.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said today the format of the pools would ensure key rivals face each other in the fast-paced, action-packed short form of Rugby League.

During the official launch of the tournament today in Parramatta, it was revealed that:

  • Group A would include Australia, New Zealand, PNG and USA
  • Group B would include England, France, Lebanon and Wales
  • Group C would include Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Cook Islands

Mr Greenberg said the two highest-placed teams from Group A would progress to the Semi Finals, alongside the winners of Groups B and C.

The two highest-placed teams from the Women’s pool, which features Australia, New Zealand, England and PNG, will feature in the women’s final.

The Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019 was formally launched today in Parramatta featuring Damien Cook (Kangaroos), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Kiwis), James Segeyaro (PNG), Maika Sivo (Fiji), Michael Jennings (Tonga), Anthony Milford (Samoa), Alex Glenn (Cook Islands), as well as Isabelle Kelly (Jillaroos) and Raecene McGregor (Kiwi Ferns).

Mr Greenberg said the pools were chosen to ensure exciting match-ups between traditional rivals.

He added all teams would play one match on Friday and a minimum of two matches on Saturday.

“The World Cup 9s will feature the most exciting players to watch in the game, representing their nations and their cultures,” Mr Greenberg said.

“It will be a festival of Rugby League and the fast-paced, frenetic nature of Nines will be fantastic to watch.

“This is Rugby League rebooted – a unique and exciting way to showcase our wonderful athletes.”

Mr Greenberg also detailed some of the key rules which will be in place during the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s:


  • A Bonus Zone, giving teams the chance for a five-point try, will be included
  • A 20-40 rule, in addition to the 40-20
  • A 25-second shot clock on drop-kicked conversions
  • Golden Try in the event of a match drawn after regulation time

NZRL CEO, Greg Peters, said: “It’s an exciting time for our international game, we’re looking forward to watching both our Ferns and Kiwis take the field in what will be an entertaining weekend of fast-paced rugby league action.”

Two-day passes for the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s will go on sale for the General Public on Wednesday (July 24).

Single-day passes will be available to purchase for the General Public from August 7.

Tickets will be available via nrl.com/tickets.

The 12 teams in the men’s competition and four teams in the women’s tournament will compete across 28 matches and 12 hours of action. Every men’s and women’s match will be broadcast live across the two days of competition.

Two tries from star half Shaun Johnson and a brilliant showing from young hooker Brandon Smith led the New Zealand Kiwis to a 34-14 victory over Mate Ma’a Tonga in the opening game of the Oceania Cup on Saturday.

Smith was in a class of his own for much of the match at Mount Smart Stadium, at times making Tonga’s defence appear second rate with his piercing runs, as he clocked up 10 tackle busts and 126 running metres in less than an hour on the field.

The energetic Melbourne Storm rake was also directly involved in two of New Zealand’s six tries, scoring the opening one with a 35-metre dart before setting up another early in the second half with another long-range run and kick.

There would have been daylight between Smith and the next best Kiwi had it not been for Johnson’s performance, with the playmaker starring in his first game back in Auckland since his dramatic exit from the Warriors at the end of 2018.

It was also his 30th Test for his country.

Johnson crossed twice at the back end of the first half and managed the game well alongside Benji Marshall in what was only the pair’s second Test together.

In front of 23,624 mostly Tongan fans in Auckland, the Kiwis raced out to a 16-4 lead at the break and didn’t look back, going some way to avenging their shock 28-22 loss to the island nation at the 2017 World Cup.

After Smith’s 11th minute try, which Esan Marsters converted, Tonga began to dominate the game and eventually hit back via Solomone Kata, after Daniel Tupou’s clever bat-back of a John Asiata kick.

Up 6-4 with half-time approaching, the Kiwis got a timely injection from Johnson, with the Cronulla Sharks ace twice slicing through Tonga’s left edge to extend the home side’s lead.

Minutes into the second half Smith’s destructive carry through the middle of the park, and well-weighted grubber into the goal-post pad, saw Roger Tuivasa-Sheck pounce on the loose ball for New Zealand’s fourth.

Tonga fought hard to try and get back into the match, but their lack of a genuine play-maker was clear to see and they struggled to build pressure.

With 20 minutes to go the air appeared to have been knocked out of Tonga, and the Kiwis made them pay with tries in quick succession to debutant Jahrome Hughes and centre Joseph Manu.

Back-to-back tries to Sydney Roosters Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Daniel Tupou inside the final 10 minutes saw Tonga reduce the final deficit to 20.


Waikato rugby league achieves a special double by providing captains of both the New Zealand Kiwis and the Kiwi Ferns in today’s international double header at Mount Smart Stadium.

Hamilton-born, Ngaruawahia-raised Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s junior club was College Old Boys in Hamilton.

He captains the Kiwis for the fifth time in today’s Oceania Cup Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga after making his captaincy debut in last October’s clash against Australia at the same ground.

Putaruru-born and raised Honey Hireme brings a Waikato flavour to the Kiwi Ferns’ captaincy today. Hireme, who now lives in Hamilton, played her junior rugby league for the Putaruru Dragons and is playing for the Hamilton City Tigers this year.


Kiwi Ferns team changes

Kiwi Ferns head coach Justin Morgan has shuffled his line-up for today’s international against Fetu Samoa at Mount Smart Stadium (3.10pm kick-off).

Debutante Charntay Poko was named in jersey #18 when the team was officially submitted on Tuesday but following the week’s training sessions, Morgan has brought her in to start in the halves with Raecene McGregor.

That sees Raquel Anderson-Pitman (#6) moved to the interchange while there’s also a change in the starting front row with Amber Paris Hall (#15) swapped in for Aieshaleigh Smalley (#8).

The bench is Anderson-Pitman, Smalley, Nita Maynard and Crystal Tamarua with Amber Kani and Jules Newman the 18th and 19th players.

The New Zealand Kiwis are confirmed to line up 1-17 as named on Tuesday with Zane Tetevano and Kieran Foran in #18 and #19.

While Kani has missed the playing 17 for the Kiwi Ferns, eight of her 2018 Warriors WNRL team-mates are in the side. The Vodafone Warriors also provide three members of the coaching staff in Justin Morgan and Luisa Avaiki plus trainer Mark Harvey. The eight players lining up are Apii Nicholls, Hilda Mariu, Krystal Rota, Annetta Nuuausala, Georgia Hale, Anderson-Pitman, Smalley and Tamarua.

In a reversal of their Kiwi Ferns roles, Avaiki will again coach the Warriors in the WNRL this year while Morgan will be her assistant.

The Vodafone Warriors also provide two of Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire’s assistant coaches in Stacey Jones and Nathan Cayless as well as three players in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo and Leeson Ah Mau.


Previous clashes against Tonga

Tonight’s Test will be the sixth between the Kiwis and Mate Ma’a Tonga.

Results since the first in 1995:

1995 | Kiwis 25, Tonga 24 at Wilderspool, Warrington (RLWC)

1999 | Kiwis 74, Tonga 0 at Carlaw Park, Auckland

2008 | Kiwis 56, Tonga 8 at Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

2009 | Kiwis 40, Tonga 24 at International Stadium, Rotorua

2017 | Kiwis 22, Tonga 28 at Waikato Stadium, Auckland


Sir Peter Leitch Challenge Trophy at stake

The Kiwis v Tonga Test is the first in the new Oceania Cup competition.

The Kiwis will meet the Kangaroos at the end of the season and Tonga will play the Australians as well.

Also at stake tonight is the Sir Peter Leitch Challenge Trophy.

This was first contested as the Peter Leitch QSM Challenge Trophy in 2008 when the Kiwis met Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium.

A new version of the trophy was struck after Sir Peter was knighted. It’s at stake whenever the Kiwis play island nations in non-Rugby League World Cup internationals.


Marshall not most experienced Kiwi

While the 34-year-old Benji Marshall made his Kiwi Test debut as long ago as 2005, he won’t be the New Zealand side’s most experienced international on the field today.

That honour belongs to halves partner Shaun Johnson who is Marshall’s junior by six years.

Johnson (28) will play his 30th Test today while Marshall, off the international scene for seven years, lines up for the 28th time.

In fact, two other Kiwi players have also made more Test appearances than Marshall. Props Jesse Bromwich and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves both take their Test tallies to 29 in this contest.

Richard Becht & Photosport.nz

Benji Marshall and Shaun Johnson have been listed as the starting halves combination for the New Zealand Kiwis’ Oceania Cup Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday, June 22 (5.40pm kick-off).

Head coach Michael Maguire has named Marshall (34) in the No 7 jersey for his 28th Test, seven years after his last. Johnson is listed in the No 6 jersey for his 30th international.

The Kiwis were required to submit their team tonight despite having just their first field session at Mount Smart Stadium today. Of the starting team used in the 34-0 third Test win over England in Leeds last November, four players are missing.

Captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been named on the wing replacing Jamayne Isaako with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at fullback in his first Test since the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Marshall replaces the unavailable Kodi Nikorima while debutant Briton Nikora and Kenny Bromwich – on the interchange in Leeds – come into the starting back row to replace the injured Kevin Proctor and Adam Blair.

The extended bench comprises Jahrome Hughes, Leeson Ah Mau, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, James Fisher-Harris, Zane Tetevano and Kieran Foran.

Kiwi Ferns coach Justin Morgan has also named a strong and clinical team to take on Fetu Samoa on Saturday (3.10pm). It features debutantes Madison Bartlett and Kiana Takairangi.

The Kiwi Ferns also trained at Mount Smart Stadium today.


5.40pm, Saturday, June 22, 2019
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Referee: Ben Cummins (Australia)


(Vodafone Warriors)
(Vodafone Warriors)
(Wests Tigers)
(Sydney Roosters)
(Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)
(Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)
(Wests Tigers)
(Melbourne Storm)
(Melbourne Storm)
(Sydney Roosters)
(Melbourne Storm)
(Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)
(Sydney Roosters)
(Melbourne Storm)
(Vodafone Warriors)
(Melbourne Storm)
(Penrith Panthers)
(Sydney Roosters)
(Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)


For full player profiles please click here – https://bit.ly/2KYd6wS


Player Club Kiwi No Tests for NZ
LEESON AH MAU Vodafone Warriors 812 5
NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA Melbourne Storm 804 5
JESSE BROMWICH Melbourne Storm 775 28
KENNEATH BROMWICH Melbourne Storm 796 7
JAMES FISHER-HARRIS Penrith Panthers 801 5
KIERAN FORAN Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs 757 21
JAHROME HUGHES Melbourne Storm
SHAUN JOHNSON Cronulla Sutherland Sharks 774 29
ISAAC LIU Sydney Roosters 805 7
JOSEPH MANU Sydney Roosters 815 4
BENJI MARSHALL Wests Tigers 717 27
ESAN MARSTERS Wests Tigers 809 5
KEN MAUMALO Vodafone Warriors 810 5
BRITON NIKORA Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
BRANDON SMITH Melbourne Storm 816 4
ZANE TETEVANO Sydney Roosters
ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK Vodafone Warriors 779 16
JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES Sydney Roosters 755 28
DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs 794 11



3.10pm, Saturday, June 22, 2019
Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland
Referee: Paki Parkinson (New Zealand)





Photo – photosport

SKY Sport and New Zealand Rugby League have today announced a new partnership for 2019 that is set to further enhance the game of rugby league in New Zealand.


This partnership is in addition to the long-standing broadcast agreement that has showcased rugby league in New Zealand and abroad for many years.


The SKY Sport logo will be proudly displayed on the jerseys of the Kiwis, Kiwi Ferns and Junior Kiwis, as well as on the Kiwi Ferns’ shorts ahead of the Oceania Cup that kicks off this Saturday with the Kiwi Ferns taking on Fetu Samoa, followed by the much-anticipated rematch between Mate Ma‘a Tonga and the Kiwis.


NZRL CEO, Greg Peters, says this partnership with SKY Sport couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Like other codes, we are experiencing an explosion in the women’s game, and this high-profile partnership will shine a brighter spotlight on this.


“Their support will enable our Kiwi Ferns and Junior Kiwis to take the field in more fixtures this year than would have otherwise been possible. Our Kiwi Ferns will play in the upcoming inaugural World Nines in Sydney and take the field again against the Jillaroos at the doubleheader in Wollongong on October 25th. Our Junior Kiwis are also set to take on their Australian counterparts towards the back end of the year as well.


“We are very grateful to have SKY Sport on board to enable further momentum for these teams. We’re excited about what we can achieve this year as a result, as well as going forward, as we work towards a long-term partnership. Thank you SKY Sport for your ongoing and invaluable support.” Greg concludes.


SKY Director of Sport, Tex Teixeira says: “SKY Sport has been a long term supporter of rugby league in New Zealand and we’re thrilled to be able to help increase the number of Kiwi Ferns and Junior Kiwis matches being played in 2019, to have SKY Sport on the jerseys is a proud moment for us.”


Veteran halves Benji Marshall and Kieran Foran have tonight been confirmed in the 19-strong Kiwi squad for the inaugural Oceania Cup Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday, June 22 (5.40pm kick-off).

The pair were initially included in a 27-man group named on Thursday night but have now moved a step closer to the prospect of a return to the Test arena.

The 34-year-iold Marshall joined the New Zealand team’s camp in Auckland tonight seven years after last wearing the black and white jersey in the end-of-season Test against the Kangaroos in Townsville in 2012. Marshall was captain that night – the 27th Test of his career – in a match the Kiwis lost 10-18.

Foran returns to a New Zealand squad for the first time since lining up in the 2017 Anzac Test in Canberra, his 21st international. He won’t join the Kiwis until tomorrow following his appearance for the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs against the Roosters in Sydney today.

He’ll travel with new Bulldogs team-mate and 2018 Kiwi captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak along with Roosters players Joseph Manu, Issac Liu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Tokoroa-born Zane Tetevano, one of three players in line to make their Kiwi Test debuts on Saturday night.

Tetevano (28) was originally selected for last year’s end of season campaign against Australia and England before being ruled out with injury following the Roosters’ grand final win. He now has a chance to wear the Kiwi jersey for the first time after previously representing Cook Islands in five Tests.

The other players in line to debut are Wellington-born Melbourne utility Jahrome Hughes (24) and Tauranga-born Cronulla second rower Briton Nikora (21), who made his NRL debut in the opening round this season.

Vodafone Warriors halfback Kodi Nikorima and Canberra’s Jordan Rapana and Joseph Tapine have been ruled out by their clubs while Vodafone Warriors second rower Tohu Harris was also unavailable.

In all 14 of the 19 players were involved in last year’s campaigns and a 15th – Tetevano – was an original selection. As well as Marshall and Foran, Vodafone Warriors captain and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – who has scored 13 tries in 16 Tests – makes his return to the Kiwis after last appearing in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.


  • The Kiwis v Tonga Test is the second leg of a doubleheader which kicks off with the Kiwi Ferns facing Fetu Samoa at 3.10pm.




LEESON AH MAU (Vodafone Warriors)


JESSE BROMWICH (Melbourne Storm)


JAMES FISHER-HARRIS (Penrith Panthers)

KIERAN FORAN (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)

JAHROME HUGHES (Melbourne Storm)

SHAUN JOHNSON (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)

ISAAC LIU (Sydney Roosters)

JOSEPH MANU (Sydney Roosters)


ESAN MARSTERS (Wests Tigers)

KEN MAUMALO (Vodafone Warriors)

BRITON NIKORA (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)

BRANDON SMITH (Melbourne Storm)

ZANE TETEVANO (Sydney Roosters)

ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (Vodafone Warriors)


DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs) Captain


Veteran halves Benji Marshall and Kieran Foran are among 27 players named in a wider Kiwi squad for the inaugural Oceania Cup Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday, June 22 (5.40pm kick-off).

The last of the 34-year-old Marshall’s 27 Tests was in 2012 when he captained the Kiwis in a 10-18 loss to the Kangaroos in Townsville.

Foran (28) last played at international level in the 2017 Anzac Test in Canberra, his 21st outing for the national team.

Another feature of the extended squad is the inclusion of Tauranga-born Sharks second rower Briton Nikora, who made his NRL debut in the opening round this season.

The only other three players named who are yet to make their Kiwi Test debuts are Wellington-born Storm fullback Jahrome Hughes (24). Tokoroa-born Roosters middle forward Zane Tetevano (28) and Tonga-born Vodafone Warriors prop Agnatius Paasi (27). Hughes and Paasi were in the Kiwis’ end-of-season touring squad last year but didn’t appear in a Test while Tetevano, who has played at international level for Cook Islands, was originally selected for the campaign before being ruled out by injury.

“We’re really pleased with the quality and form of the players we’ve been able to select,” said second-year Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire.

“Nearly all of them have come through the Test we had against England in Denver last year and the matches against Australia and England later in the year. As a group we made a lot of progress and now it’s all about building on that.

“This Test against Tonga at Mount Smart is going to be a huge occasion and we can’t wait to be part of it.

“It kicks off what is a tremendous year for the international game with the introduction of the Oceania Cup competition, the Downer Rugby League World Cup Nines and our series against the Great Britain Rugby League Lions.”

In all 22 of the 27 players named in the Kiwis’ wider squad tonight were involved in last year’s campaigns; the exceptions are Marshall, Foran, Tetevano, Nikora and Vodafone Warriors captain and 2018 Dally M Medal winner Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

NRL competition leader Melbourne provides five players in the Bromwich brothers Jesse and Kenny, front rower Nelson Asofa-Solomona, hooker Brandon Smith and Hughes while there are seven Vodafone Warriors in fullback Tuivasa-Sheck, wing Ken Maumalo, halfback Kodi Nikorima, prop Leeson Ah Mau, hooker Issac Luke, second rower Isaiah Papali’i and Paasi.

The Sydney Roosters boast four players in 2018 New Zealand Rugby League Player of the Year Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, centre Joseph Manu, back rower Isaac Liu and Tetevano.

The final 19-man Test squad will be announced after the NRL’s 14th round finishes with the clash between the Sydney Roosters and the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs on Sunday evening.

  • The Kiwis v Tonga Test is the second leg of a doubleheader which kicks off with the Kiwi Ferns facing Fetu Samoa at 3.10pm.


LEESON AH MAU (Vodafone Warriors)


JESSE BROMWICH (Melbourne Storm)


JAMES FISHER-HARRIS (Penrith Panthers)

KIERAN FORAN (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)

JAHROME HUGHES (Melbourne Storm)

JAMAYNE ISAAKO (Brisbane Broncos)

SHAUN JOHNSON (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)

ISAAC LIU (Sydney Roosters)

ISSAC LUKE (Vodafone Warriors)

JOSEPH MANU (Sydney Roosters)


ESAN MARSTERS (Wests Tigers)

KEN MAUMALO (Vodafone Warriors)

BRITON NIKORA (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)

KODI NIKORIMA (Vodafone Warriors)

AGNATIUS PAASI (Vodafone Warriors)

ISAIAH PAPALI’I (Vodafone Warriors)

JORDAN RAPANA (Canberra Raiders)

BRANDON SMITH (Melbourne Storm)

JOSEPH TAPINE (Canberra Raiders)

MARTIN TAUPAU (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles)

ZANE TETEVANO (Sydney Roosters)

ROGER TUIVASA-SHECK (Vodafone Warriors)


DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK (Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs)


Photo – Photosport

Congratulations to league legend, Sir Graham Lowe, who headlined NZ sporting identities in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours – becoming a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Firstly known for his dedication to the game, this accolade recognises his important services off the field, as he’s knighted for his work with youth and education.

Sir Graham has enjoyed a distinguished career in the game, coaching the Kiwis to victory over the all-conquering Kangaroos, guiding Manly and Wigan to success in Australian and English professional ranks, and steering Queensland home over NSW at State of Origin.

He previously received a Queen’s Service Medal in 1986 New Year Honours and became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2013 New Year Honours, but all his titles – including this latest – have recognised his community service.

The 72-year-old was knighted for his services to youth and education, with his Lowie Foundation delivering a literacy and numeracy programme to 12-19-year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Rugby league and sport are really important and play a big part in our lives, but I’m a believer in supporting, helping and educating disadvantaged young people,” he said.

“I saw many times young people who were oozing rugby league talent, but they lacked a successful pathway because they didn’t appreciate how important literacy and numeracy were in life. So many of them missed out and when I combine that with many of the players I’ve coached, I owe so much to them.

“A lot of them came from these really disadvantaged backgrounds and I wanted to see if I could put something back in that area. That’s what I’ve been really focused on for many years.”

We want to congratulate Graham for epitomising our More Than A Game philosophy and thank him for his hard work and dedication to effecting important change within our communities.

New Zealand rugby league has lost a legend.


It’s with great sorrow that we announce Kiwi #634 and Warrior #52, Quentin Pongia, lost his battle with bowel cancer on Saturday, May 18th, 2019.


Originally from the West Coast, Pongia moved to Canterbury at 18 in 1988. He crossed the Tasman in 1993 to play for Canberra, winning a premiership with them the following year. He remained with the club through to the end of 1997 before joining the Warriors in 1998, followed by the Roosters, Dragons and Wigan.


The relentless prop played 137 NRL games in his 13-year career, in which he gained a reputation as one of the game’s most feared players. On top of this, he also leaves behind a legacy carved by his black and white jersey.


Quentin represented the Kiwis 35 times between 1992 and 2000. He played a monumental role in New Zealand’s back-to-back victories over the Kangaroos at North Harbour Stadium in the 1990s, he then went on to captain the 1998 touring team that remains the only Kiwis side unbeaten from a three-test series in England, also earning himself New Zealand Rugby League player of the year.


In 2004, Quentin hung up his boots while signed with Wigan when it was discovered that he suffered from the contagious blood disorder hepatitis B. However, his involvement in rugby league didn’t end there. Pongia remained in the game when his playing days finished, having time on Canberra’s football staff and more recently he worked in the wellbeing area for the NRL, the Rugby League Players’ Association and lastly the Manly Sea Eagles.


He was also on the Kiwis’ staff for the 2009 end of season Four Nations campaign in the United Kingdom and France.


In an interview with stuff.co.nz last year, Quentin said “I’m a passionate Kiwi. That will never change … I’ve been away for 25 years in Australia, but I’m still black and white…It’s something that’s pretty close to my heart.”


A gentleman on and off the field, a legend of the game and a true friend to many. New Zealand Rugby League passes on their condolences to Quentin’s friends and family.



“Like a number of players who played with him, I have nothing but respect and a wonderful friendship with Quentin and although it saddens me to hear of the news, it comforts me to know he has no pain now. Quentin is the toughest individual I have ever played with and I know how hard he fought to beat this terrible disease. He will be sorely missed right across the rugby league community.” – Current Canberra coach and former teammate, Ricky Stuart.


“A legend, an absolute legend of rugby league. He played the game full on all the time, gave no quarter and the same with his cancer, he fought it until the bitter end – a wonderful man.” Sir Peter Leitch.


Vodafone Warriors and Kiwis hooker Issac Luke tweeted: “Farrrrrout this has saddened our @NRL and @NZRL_Kiwis  community. Moe mai rā tōku tuakana. Thoughts and love to Q’s whanau. No more pain now brother. Only memories of how tough you were as a player on and off the field. May you rest in Love.”


Ex-Kiwi and Vodafone Warriors centre Nigel Vagana tweeted: “My @NZRL_Kiwis debut .. the 1st Anzac Test.. Johnny Lomax got hurt in opening 30secs. Q had to play 80mins in the front row, 1st game back after a long suspension & led us to victory. One of the toughest ever in the Black & White. Ka kite ano Uso.”


Very sad to hear the passing of Quentin Pongia. One of the toughest NRL players of modern rugby league, and that reflected especially when he represented the Kiwis” – Kiwi and Manly Sea Eagles player, Martin Taupau tweeted.


“Being born in NZ but growing up in Oz, I found myself always following Kiwi players, regardless of the club jersey they wore. Quentin Pongia was one of the toughest to ever wear the black jersey and I’m so grateful to have known him. Rest In Peace Q” – Former Kiwi, Dene Halatau tweeted.


We invite you to join us at a luncheon hosted by Sir Peter Leitch, in support of Quentin’s family at the Ellerslie Event Centre on June 7.


Photo – PhotosportNZ

As seen on nrl.com by Corey Rosser


The promise of a permanent spot in the halves was the key factor in Kodi Nikorima deciding to seek an immediate release from Brisbane and join the New Zealand Warriors.

The Warriors announced the signing of Nikorima through until the end of 2021 on Friday, with the 25-year-old expected to debut for his new club against the Dragons during the NRL’s Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium in round nine on Saturday.

Nikorima said the Broncos made it clear they saw teenager Thomas Dearden as their long-term halfback, at which point the positional security on offer at the Warriors became too good to turn down.


“[Brisbane] were pretty up front and honest in saying that Tom was probably their future half there,” Nikorima said.

“The Warriors came to me and said that they want me to play in the halves here … in the end it was the best decision for myself.

“At the end of the day it was just the fact that there’s a lot of security here, there’s a future for myself in a position that I want to play.

“The Broncos couldn’t offer me anything like that. I could have waited until the end of the year, but that contract that was on offer [from the Warriors] might not have become available then.


“I am grateful for the opportunity that [Brisbane] have given me [by releasing] me right now, and excited about the new journey and new chapter ahead.”

Nikorima said the Kiwi connection at the Warriors was also a crucial factor in his decision to sign with the Auckland-based club.

He was given his Test debut for the Kiwis by now Warriors coach Stephen Kearney in 2015, and he has strong relationships with a number of the squad through time together in camp with New Zealand.

“Knowing Roger [Tuivasa-Sheck] and Issac Luke, who form part of the spine too will definitely help me in transferring from the Broncos into the Warriors’ system,” Nikorima said.

“And also having that relationship with Steve Kearney should help as well.

“That played a big part too. I have had a pretty good relationship with Mooks [Kearney], we have kept in touch over the years and I am really excited to play under him again.”

Nikorima also revealed he and future halves partner Blake Green had already held discussions about the roles they will play in the side, with Nikorima at pains to insist he wouldn’t be attempting to emulate Shaun Johnson’s style.

“I just spoke to Blake briefly before his game [against the Knights] and he sort of said that he wants me playing both sides and just playing off him, I guess playing more of that six role,” Nikorima said.


“Things aren’t going to click straight away … it might take time.

“I don’t really see it as replacing Shaun. What Shaun’s done here has been incredible and I don’t want to compare myself to him, nor will I compare myself to the past players like Stacey Jones.

“I have come here to be who I am. I’m Kodi Nikorima, I’m no one else and I won’t ever try and be anyone else.”



Sir Peter Leitch invites you to a buffet luncheon in support of Quentin Pongia’s family after he sadly lost his battle with cancer. With our M.C. former Vodafone Warrior and Kiwi Jerry Seuseu, come join us for interviews with Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki and Stephen Kearney, plus a special auction. All proceeds on the day will go to towards Quentin’s two-year-old daughter, Maia.

Click here for tickets. 

Event details:

  • Friday, 7th June at the Ellerslie Event Centre (Auckland Racing Club)
  • Tickets $200.00 per person; each ticket includes a buffet  meal, beer, wine and soft drinks
  • Doors Open 12.00pm – Mix & Mingle with some of the greats of our game
  • Luncheon commences 1.00pm
  • Dress code is ‘Smart Casual’
  • For any further enquiries contact Natalie Stol at [email protected] or phone 09-522-3805

Thank you for your support.

Sir Peter Charles Leitch KNZM QSM

New Zealand Rugby League is saddened to hear of the passing of Kiwi #373 Duncan MacRae who played three Tests for the Kiwis in 1956.

His contribution to New Zealand Rugby League will not be forgotten.



Today marks what would have been Kiwi #556 Bernard Green’s sixtieth birthday.

Bernard Green was among workers in Roa Mine that were killed when a shaft of a coal mine collapsed just after 11am on September 7th 2006.

Bernie was selected for the New Zealand squad that was touring Great Britain and France, becoming Kiwi number 556.

Bernie was a Kiwi, a great guy, working class, a very popular and well-known sportsperson.

Sir Peter Leitch invites you to a buffet luncheon to support Quentin Pongia to raise funds to help him in his fight to battle cancer. With our M.C. former Vodafone Warrior and Kiwi Jerry Seuseu, come join us for interviews with Stacey Jones, Ruben Wiki and Stephen Kearney, plus a special auction. All proceeds on the day will go to the Quentin Pongia Trust.

Click here for tickets. 

Event details:

  • Friday, 7th June at the Ellerslie Event Centre (Auckland Racing Club)
  • Tickets $200.00 per person; each ticket includes a buffet  meal, beer, wine and soft drinks
  • Doors Open 12.00pm – Mix & Mingle with some of the greats of our game
  • Luncheon commences 1.00pm
  • Dress code is ‘Smart Casual’
  • For any further enquiries contact Natalie Stol at [email protected] or phone 09-522-3805

Thank you for your support.

Sir Peter Charles Leitch KNZM QSM



As seen on NRL.com by Senior Reporter Margie McDonald


Martin Taupau has the chance to do his bit and support his New Zealand brothers and sisters when Manly play the Warriors in Christchurch later in March.

But that is round three. Taupau’s first focus is on the Roosters at Lottoland on Sunday in round two.

However, the scenes and consequences of the mosque shootings in Christchurch last Friday have jolted Taupau into thinking of next week’s visit.

He has been watching and listening at the outpouring of emotion from nations worldwide. And it makes his chest swell.

“It makes me not only proud to be a New Zealander but proud to be a human being,” Taupau said on Monday.

“There’s so much love going on around the world in support that gives me a lot of faith in humanity at the moment.

“It’s a great sign with world leaders, movie stars, other influential people and sporting leaders of every capacity have come out in support. It’s awesome.”

Tapau was born and bred in south Auckland, but events like last Friday immediately unite the South and North islands.

“New Zealanders are New Zealanders. We’re all from one mother.”



That explains in part his anxiety to get back home for the round three game at Christchurch’s ANZ Stadium.

“It will great for us to get in among the community and show our support not just as a club but also as the NRL.

“It’s hard, it’s a very sensitive subject to talk about, not just for there but for everyone globally.

“It’s very sad and you feel lost for words.”

Manly and the Warriors are sure to make their presence felt in the local community and try to spread some kinship and friendship.

But first, the Roosters. The premiers are coming off a loss, which is never an easy scenario to face.

“It’s perfect for us to play them at Lottoland. It’s our ground so hopefully we get the support out and not the torrential rain,” Taupau said.

The Sea Eagles will be without Addin Fonua-Blake after he copped a one-match ban after being charged for two dangerous tackles in the 20-6 loss to the Wests Tigers last Saturday.

Fonua-Blake was the highest metre-eater for the Sea Eagles with 198 metres.

“It’s hard but we’ve definitely got the muscle with Kelepi [Tanginoa] back [injured knee in Sharks trial] and Jake [Trbojevic] on fire as well. Jake can do a million tackles and get up and not look fatigued at all. Same with Api Koroisau,” Taupau said.

“Our defence was astronomical. It was awesome compared with the last three years. Our defensive structure was there – the intent, just everything. It all came into place.”



Trbojevic agreed the defence was resolute against the Tigers but it only lasted for three-quarters of the game.

“I guess we put ourselves under too much pressure [with errors] which got us in the end,” he said.

“Our defence was good and that gave us a lot of confidence. But you can’t keep putting yourselves under that sort of pressure and come away with a win.

“They kept getting repeat set, repeat set on our errors and penalties.”

Trbojevic’s clash with Roosters No.13 Victor Radley will be a key head-to-head contest this Saturday.

“He is great to watch and does everything at 100 miles an hour. He has great impact so any team will have to watch him,” he said.




New Zealand is set to get a massive injection of international rugby league matches in 2019, with the Great Britain Rugby League Lions tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, and the inaugural Oceania Cup getting the green light.


The first match of the Oceania Cup has the New Zealand Kiwis going head-to-head with Mate Ma’a Tonga at Mt Smart in the re-match that everyone has been waiting for. The Kiwi Ferns will also take on a Pacific Island team on the same night. This mid-season clash is one of three Tests the Kiwis will play in New Zealand, with the end-of-season Test against the Kangaroos being played in Wollongong.


The inaugural Oceania Cup will be made up of Pool A – comprising New Zealand, Australia, and Tonga  – and Pool B – made up of Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.


Organisers also announced that the Great Britain Rugby League Lions will be in action in the southern hemisphere for the first time in 13 years, playing two Test matches against New Zealand (2 November at Eden Park and 9 November at Christchurch Stadium) and Tests against Tonga and Papua New Guinea.


New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters said he was “excited to see all the hard work behind the scenes come into fruition with more international rugby league content locked in for our country and our fans.”


“We could not be doing this without the support of New Zealand Government, the host cities and NZRL’s commercial partners so I’m incredibly grateful to all of them for making this possible.”


“Our rugby league community in New Zealand has been hoping for more international and Kiwis fixtures in our back yard for a while now so I’m pleased we’re able to deliver on this for them,”


“New Zealand Rugby League is also delighted to be bringing such an event to New Zealand that will also benefit the teams throughout the Pacific.”


RLIF Southern Hemisphere General Manager Jeremy Edwards was delighted to announce such a packed schedule.


“This international program is both exciting and ground-breaking and it is great to see the Great Britain Rugby League Lions following in the historic footprints of previous tours.”

“The Oceania Cup is an important step in creating a full international calendar that fans, players and commercial partners can enjoy.”


“It has taken a huge amount of work to deliver this and I commend the efforts of all those who have brought us to this point. It is a great platform for the international game in the Asia Pacific Region.”

Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) Chief Executive Officer Ian Prendergast says the Oceania Cup and Great Britain Rugby League Lions are fantastic additions to the International Rugby League calendar.


“It is fantastic that there will be significant international content in 2019, including new properties in the Nines and the Oceania Cup, as well as the Great Britain Rugby League Lions touring down under.”


“It reflects the enhanced profile, interest and competitiveness of International Rugby League. In particular, the Oceania Cup provides a tremendous new platform for the Pacific nations to compete on the world stage.”


“We have enjoyed working through the process with the RLIF and the nations to establish the schedule for 2019 and look forward to continuing these discussions when planning for future matches takes place.”


“The international game presents exciting opportunities for our members and through continued collaboration we look forward to further showcasing the wonderful rugby league talent we have in the game.”


Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer said the return of the Great Britain Rugby League Lions was highly-anticipated.


“The return of the famous Great Britain jersey is something people have been talking about for a long time so this is an exciting announcement for us.”


“It’s 12 years since Great Britain last played a Test, and 13 since they last travelled to the southern hemisphere, for the Tri-Nations series of 2006.”


“There is such history and tradition around that Great Britain shirt, it’s great for the game to have it back and we’ll be committed to respecting and honouring that tradition.”


Note: Event organisers are grateful for the support for New Zealand government through the Major Events Development Fund, ATEED, H3 and ChristchurchNZ.


2019 Kiwis fixtures:


Saturday, 22 June – Kiwis v Mate Ma’a Tonga – Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand

Friday, 25 October – Kiwis v Kangaroos – WIN Stadium, Wollongong, Australia

Saturday, 2 November – Kiwis v Great Britain Rugby League Lions – Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand

Saturday, 9 November – Kiwis  v Great Britain Rugby League Lions – Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand




As seen on TVNZ Breakfast and the 1 Newsnow website.

Retired Kiwi league player Lewis Brown is using the heartbreak of losing his father to suicide to help him launch a new career as a fashion designer.

Brown retired from the NRL after last season and has since found a new passion to invest his time in – clothing.

“I’ve always been into fashion and I’ve always liked sneakers and street fashion,” he told TVNZ1’s Breakfast.

“My biggest fear while I was playing footy was ‘am I ever going to be passionate about something as much as footy when I finish’, so I found that passion in fashion and decided to bite the bullet, jump in the deep end and launch my own range.”

The result was Earl’s Collection – a street clothing label launched at the start of February.

Despite his limited knowledge on terminologies in the business, Brown is already seeing success, with an excess of 300 orders in two weeks.

The former Kiwis second-rower, who played in the NRL for the Warriors, Penrith and Manly, said he found inspiration for the name from his dad.

“My middle name is Earl and my father’s middle name is also Earl,” he said.

“Unfortunately, two years ago, my father took his own life. I never really had much of relationship with my dad when I was younger – I grew up with my single mum – and it was a bit of a tough time.

“But my dad was styley dude so I kind of just thought, ‘I didn’t really have the relationship I did when I was with him when I was younger,’ so I’m taking him on this journey now.

“When my dad’s stuff happened, it taught me that life is too short and to do something that you love doing.”

Brown says since launching the company, he’s living life with a smile on his face.

“I’m picking and packing orders out of my own lounge and stuff like that so I’m really connected to the brand.”


By Stuff.co.nz – Sam Phillips

It’s all about iwi for the New Zealand Māori All Stars.

Iwi, the Māori word for “people” or “nation”, identifies which tribe a New Zealand native is from and when the official team lists are printed in Friday’s match program, each player will have their iwi next to their surname.

That will mark a proud moment for each of the inaugural Māori All Stars and their families, according to hooker Brandon Smith.

“It’s definitely a proud moment, particularly for my mother’s side of the family,” Smith said in Melbourne.

“She’s a Māori and for her this is massive. Getting to see my iwi next to my name in the team lists – she was super excited.

“This game is for her.”

Many of Smith’s team-mates feel the same way.

While not all are well versed in the intricacies of their heritage, James Tamou pointed to each player’s family roots when asked what the game meant to those taking part.

“It’s what you grow up with as family,” Tamou said.

“That’s why all the Māori players are here, representing that.

“Even still to this day there are parts of my family that are pretty solid foundation, keeping strong within the Māori culture in our family.

“They want to help me out and that’s why I’m here: to represent them.”

Each Māori All Star was presented with a special greenstone upon arrival in camp on Sunday.

The gift will serve as a reminder of the culture the team is representing when they run onto AAMI Park on Friday night.

“It was a gift to take away on your journey so you always remember where you came from,” Tamou said.

“All these players have their own journey in life and they will always be part of the Maori heritage and Maori culture to go with it.

“Some boys will cherish it everywhere we go.”

The energy with which the Maori men have embraced the new All Stars concept leads one to believe the NRL may be onto a winner.

The fan vote, combined with the clash of two iconic cultures, leads Maori coach Stacey Jones to believe the concept would work in New Zealand as well.

“I’m sure it would [do well] anywhere in New Zealand,” he said.

“When you look at the calibre of players on both teams – there would be massive support.

“It’s very special.

“These guys playing in this game are giving back to the game, giving back to the Māori people.

“Hopefully some kids that will be watching will say one day I want to be in that team.”

Tamou echoed Jones’ sentiment.

“As soon as they announced it, I imagined the passion which was going to come out from both teams,” he said.

“It will be unreal. It will be a good showcase for the fans.

“This week we are getting a really good understanding about Māori and I’m sure the Indigenous team are doing the same over there.

“When it all comes together it will show how cultures collide and not only the excitement of football but how passionate the players can all be about it.”

Smith believes that passion would also translate to a potential Pacific Nations team.

Should Friday’s match prove a success, the Storm hooker suggested a Tri Nations type tournament should be looked at in the near future.

But first, Smith believes stamping this fixture as an annual event should be top priority.

“It showcases the two cultures and the ability that they have, so I think it’s a really good idea,” he said.

“The way the NRL is pushing it at the moment … hopefully it goes really well.

“What the Tongans have done for rugby league is really good for the Pacific Nations.

“Hopefully one day we could get a Pacific team as well in there – a tri series – something like that.”

Smith also likes the notion of taking the match to New Zealand but with Storm-Warriors games often drawing 50-50 crowds, he cheekily suggested it may feel like a home match on Friday anyway.

“I think we will have a lot of home support. When we played the Anzac test at AAMI Park there were a lot of Kiwis there,” he said.

“Melbourne has a lot of Kiwi fans, so hopefully they all turn up on the weekend.”

It was a trip down memory lane for Kiwis hooker Brandon Smith, and a once in a lifetime experience for 48 kids at the Waiheke Island Holiday Blast.

A Waiheke Rams junior, Smith has in recent years become a key part of the Melbourne Storm’s NRL side and a capped Kiwi international.

This week marked the first time the Auckland Rugby League has taken its school holiday programme to the island, and Smith said as soon as he found out it coincided with his visit to Waiheke, he was keen to be part of it.

“What stood out to me was the attendance, to see so many happy faces, it reminded me of when I was a junior,” Smith said.

“I loved being here at the rugby league club when I was younger, so just seeing the amount of kids with smiles on their faces, you can tell they are having a really good time.”

Smith spoke to the attendees and took part in activities with them, and believed the programme was a great way to grow rugby league.

“This is something that can help grow the sport moving forward on the island,” he said.

“I gave up my time because I really want to help rugby league grow here in New Zealand, not just on Waiheke, and I believe it starts from grassroots rugby league.”

Auckland Rugby League CEO Greg Whaiapu said it was great to see a local player giving back to his community.

“For Brandon to do this and spend his free time helping the next generation of Auckland footy players, speaks volumes about the person he is,” Whaiapu said.

“It’s always special to meet your sporting heroes, and even better when they come from the same club you are playing at.

“We are very grateful for Brandon’s time and effort – he’s left a bunch of kids with an experience they will never forget.”

New Zealand's Favourite Sporting Moment finalists for 56th ISPS Handa Halberg Awards

Nine sporting highlights from 2018 have been shortlisted for New Zealand’s Favourite Sporting Moment – the only category voted for by the public at the 56th ISPS Handa Halberg Awards. For info on how to vote and to be in to win a trip to the #56thISPSHandaHalbergAwards go to https://www.halbergawards.co.nz/favourite-sporting-moment/

Posted by ISPS Handa Halberg Awards on Monday, 14 January 2019

This is your chance to have your say on the sporting moment that excited you the most in 2018. The winner of the Favourite Sporting Moment of the Year will be announced at the 56th ISPS Handa Halberg Awards, televised live on SKY SPORT on Thursday 21 February 2019.

The full list of New Zealand’s Favourite Sporting Moment of the Year finalists are:

  1. Nico Porteous and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott medaling at the Olympic Winter Games within two hours of each other (Pyeongchang)
  2. David Liti breaking a Commonwealth record and winning gold in the men’s 105kg+ weightlifting division at the Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast)
  3. Kelly Brazier scoring a long range solo try in extra time to secure gold for the Black Ferns Sevens against Australia at the Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast)
  4. Vantage Black Sticks Women penalty shootout over Olympic champions England in semifinal at the Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast)
  5. Amelia Kerr blasting a record breaking 232 not out against Ireland for the White Ferns, achieving the highest score in women’s ODIs (Dublin)
  6. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck receiving an impromptu haka after winning the Dally M Player of the Year (Sydney)
  7. Auckland Rugby winning the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership final after a dramatic finish in extra time against Canterbury (Auckland)
  8. Black Caps winning the first test against Pakistan by four runs (Abu Dhabi)
  9. Anna Leat’s successful penalty shootout against Japan, leading New Zealand into the semifinal of the Fifa Under-17 Women’s World Cup (New Zealand vs Japan, Uruguay)

How to vote:

Voting is now open for the Sporting Moment of the Year award.  You can vote once a day from now until 9.00pm on Thursday 21 February 2019, vote either online or by text.

1.            Online 

Vote at www.sportingmoments.co.nz

2.            TXT

Text your Sporting Moment’s unique code to 556 (standard txt charges apply):

  1. Txt SM1 to 556 to vote for Nico Porteous and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott
  2. Txt SM2 to 556 to vote for David Liti
  3. Txt SM3 to 556 to vote for Kelly Brazier
  4. Txt SM4 to 556 to vote for Vantage Black Sticks Womens Team
  5. Txt SM5 to 556 to vote for Amelia Kerr
  6. Txt SM6 to 556 to vote for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
  7. Txt SM7 to 556 to vote for Auckland Rugby
  8. Txt SM8 to 556 to vote for Black Caps
  9. Txt SM9 to 556 to vote for Anna Leat

Everyone who votes for the Sporting Moment by 4 February 2019 goes in the draw to win a trip for two including flights and accommodation to the 56th ISPS Handa Halberg Awards at Spark Arena, Auckland on Thursday 21 February 2019.   Visit www.sportingmoments.co.nz to read the competition terms & conditions.

The Awards, held annually since 1963, are the brainchild of Olympic athletics champion Sir Murray Halberg (ONZ) to honour sporting excellence and as a major fundraiser for the Halberg Foundation – his charity which aims to enhance the lives of physically disabled young New Zealanders by enabling them to participate in sport and recreation.

The core work of Halberg Foundation includes a team of Advisers around the country who connect physically disabled young people to sport and recreation opportunities. The Halberg Advisers also deliver an inclusion training course on adapting physical activity and assist clubs, schools and organisations to provide inclusive events and programmes. The Foundation also hosts the Halberg Games – an annual national three-day sports competition for physically disabled young people. 



Here’s what went on behind the scenes in England when the Kiwis had free time…

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Honey Hireme reign supreme at the 2018 New Zealand Rugby League Annual Awards announced on Sky Sport’s Kiwi League Show tonight.

Waerea-Hargreaves (Kiwi #755) had one of his best seasons in the black and white jersey, accumulating over 130 run metres for all four end-of-season Test matches in England, and proved crucial in the Kiwis historic 26-24 win over Australia.

Michael Maguire says: “As a senior player within the Kiwis camp, Jared put a lot of time into discussing the growth of the Kiwi team. He has immense passion towards where he wants to see the black and white jersey and this is a real quality of his,”

“Off the back of his brilliant season in club land, he was in a good position to play his best footy for the Kiwis and that’s exactly what he did. His experience has been invaluable in mentoring younger players to step up into international rugby league,” Maguire says.

The powerhouse prop capped off his 2018 NRL season with his second NRL premiership win, a title he was able to share with Kiwis teammate Joseph Manu (finalist for Kiwis Rookie of the Year).

In one of the biggest years to date for women’s rugby league, Honey Hireme was hard to go past when it came to crowning the Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year, an award she won back in 2012. As co-captain of the Kiwi Ferns alongside veteran teammate Laura Mariu, she crossed the ditch to play for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership, an experience she says has benefitted her game.

“The addition of this year’s NRL competition was great for the women’s game. The fact that we could all come together in Kiwi Ferns camp following four weeks of competing in the elite space, was hugely beneficial when it came to pulling on the black and white jersey against the Jillaroos,”

“The more we can play at the top level, the better our game gets. I’m grateful for receiving this award but would also like to recognise the efforts of the other finalists (Kimiora Nati and Aieshaleigh Smalley) and our Kiwi Ferns teammates, my family for their undying support, management and coaching staff,” she says.

The Kiwis Rookie of the Year award was picked up by Kiwi #810 Ken Maumalo, a player who earnt his Kiwis call-up in June at Mile High Stadium before going on to play in all five 2018 Kiwis Test matches, scoring four tries. His impressive season with the Warriors and Kiwis attracted high praises from coach Michael Maguire and rightfully so, given he amassed 15 tackle breaks and 801 run metres over the three Tests he played against England.

“Both Ken and Jared are two players that are hungry for the Kiwis jersey to reach new heights and that’s pleasing,”

“It has been really enjoyable coaching Ken, the more he plays, the more he grows so I look forward to seeing what he does next year,” Maguire says.

Joining Maumalo in playing her first Test at international level, Onjeurlina Leiataua has been rewarded for her break out season with the Warriors women’s team, and the stellar part she played in the Kiwi Ferns narrow loss against the Jillaroos at Mt Smart Stadium this year. These achievements saw her pick up Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year.

Promising youngster, Isaiah Papali’i wins Junior Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, having been awarded Warriors Rookie of the Year and receiving his Kiwis debut in England after leading the Junior Kiwis in their match-up against the Junior Kangaroos in October.

This year’s award winners showcase players and match officials performing at the pinnacle of rugby league, as well as community representatives and volunteers who prove to be the backbone of grassroots rugby league in New Zealand.

New Zealand Rugby League wishes to congratulate the award winners from all 13 categories below:

Pirtek Female Volunteer – Karen Gibbons Karen Gibbons (Akarana, Auckland)

Pirtek Male Volunteer – Lawrence Erihe (Mid Central, Manawatu)

Grassroots Club of the Year – South Pacific Raiders (Southern, Otago)

Domestic Coach of the Year – Keith Hanley (Akarana, Auckland)

Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)

NZ 16s Player of the Year – Sione Moala (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

NZ 18s Player of the Year – Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors)

Domestic Premier Player of the Year – Francis Leger (Akarana, Auckland)

Kiwi Fern Rookie of the Year – Onjeurlina Leiataua (NZ Warriors)

Kiwis Rookie of the Year – Ken Maumalo (NZ Warriors)

Kiwis Fern Player of the Year – Honey Hireme (St George Illawarra Dragons)

Kiwis Player of the Year – Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters)

“My heart is black and white, it’s always been like that” – Quentin Pongia talks with us about his rugby league career.

"My heart is black and white, it's always been like that." Quentin Pongia talks with us about his rugby league career #TeIwiKiwi 🇳🇿

Posted by New Zealand Kiwis on Sunday, 25 November 2018

NZ Kiwis skipper Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Kiwi #794) is up against NRL Premiership winning forward, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Kiwi #755) and Kiwi #771 Kevin Proctor for the 2018 Kiwis Player of the Year Award.

Finalists have been selected in all 13 NZRL Awards categories, including Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year which will be hotly contested by Kiwi Ferns co-captain Honey Hireme, NRL Grand-Final Player of the Match Kimiora Nati and powerhouse prop Aieshaleigh Smalley.

Kiwis debutants Joseph Manu, Ken Maumalo and Dally M Rookie of the Year, Jamayne Isaako will face-off for the Kiwis Rookie of the Year award – all three having had outstanding seasons with their respective clubs and thriving in their Kiwis career debut seasons.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck took home the top Kiwis award last year but the 2018 Dally M Award winner was out of contention for this year’s Kiwis end of season campaign in New Zealand and England due to injury.

Last year’s Junior Player of the Year, Isaiah Papali’i won the award as a 19-year-old and is still eligible this year following a stellar season with the Warriors and as captain of the Junior Kiwis. He faces challenges from the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Taranaki-born Mawene Hiroti, as well as Warriors youngster Joseph Vuna.

The Pirtek Volunteer of the Year awards also shine light on the incredible efforts of grassroots volunteers from around the country. These finalists have contributed to their clubs and communities in ways that are invaluable to the game of rugby league in New Zealand.

Award winners will be announced on 12 December on a special edition of Sky Sport’s Kiwi League Show at 7.30pm and NZRL’s website & social media channels.

Below is the full list of NZRL Awards finalists:

Kiwis Player of the Year 2018


  • Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers)
  • Kevin Proctor (Gold Coast Titans)
  • Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters)


Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year 2018


  • Honey Hireme (St George Illawarra Dragons)
  • Kimiora Nati (Brisbane Broncos)
  • Aieshaleigh Smalley (NZ Warriors)

Kiwis Rookie of the Year 2018


  • Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters)
  • Ken Maumalo (NZ Warriors)
  • Jamayne Isaako (Brisbane Broncos)

Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year 2018


  • Onjeurlina Leiataua (NZ Warriors)
  • Masuisuimatama’alii Tauasa-Pauaraisa (NZ Warriors)

Junior Player of the Year 2018


  • Mawene Hiroti (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
  • Joseph Vuna (NZ Warriors)
  • Isaiah Papali’I (NZ Warriors)

Pirtek Female Volunteer of the Year 2018


Debbie Neylon-Kennedy (Southern, Canterbury)

Michelle Harding (Southern, Canterbury)

Hana Kakoi (Southern, Canterbury)

Denise Proctor (Northland, Nga Tama Toa)

Junie Shelford (Northland, Takahiwai)

Sariah Matautia (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Agnes Koti (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Karen Gibbons (Akarana, Auckland)

Rose Nahu (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)

Ally Tamihere (Mid Central, Gisborne Tairawhiti)



Pirtek Male Volunteer of the Year 2018


David Field (Southern, Canterbury)

Tony Grenfell (Southern, Canterbury)

Chris Perriam (Southern, Southland)

Peter Kerridge (Southern, West Coast)

Josh Cleaver (Mid Central, Taranaki)

Lawrence Erihe (Mid Central, Manawatu)

Frank Proctor (Northland, Nga Tama Toa)

Nick Waihi (Northland, Marist Brothers)

Tim Tapaki (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Stephen Purcell (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Carl Gribble (Akarana, Auckland)


Grassroots Club of the Year 2018


Wairau Taniwha (Southern, Tasman)

Lonestar Cowboys (Southern, Southland)

South Pacific Raiders (Southern, Otago)

Rolleston Warriors (Southern, Canterbury)

Takahiwai Warriors (Northland)

Otahuhu Rugby League Club (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Manurewa Rugby League Football & Sports Club Inc (Counties Manukau, Auckland)


Domestic Coach of the Year 2018


Rusty Matua (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Tusa Lafaele (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Keith Hanley (Akarana, Auckland)


Match Official of the Year 2018


Gary Smallridge (Southern, Canterbury)

Owen Harvey (Southern, Canterbury)

Chris McMillan (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Paki Parkinson (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)


NZ 16s Player of the Year 2018


Sione Moala (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Quinnlan Tupou (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

Lani Graham-Taufa (Akarana, Auckland)


NZ 18s Player of the Year 2018


Kayal Iro (NZ Warriors)

Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors)

Mahuta Ngataki-Matthews (Upper Central, Waikato)


NZRL Premier Player of the Year 2018


Drew Radich (Counties Manukau, Auckland)

James Baxendale (Southern, Canterbury)

Francis Leger (Akarana, Auckland)




















By Richard Becht, Vodafone Warriors

Auckland, New Zealand, November 28, 2018 – Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George today announced halfback Shaun Johnson has requested and been granted a release from the last year of his contract in 2019.

George said the release was effective immediately.

“Yesterday (head coach) Stephen Kearney, (recruitment manager) Peter O’Sullivan and I met with Shaun and his manager Peter Brown,” he said.

“During the meeting Shaun clearly demonstrated to us that he didn’t want to be at the club in 2019.

“While it’s disappointing it has come to this, we must acknowledge the contribution Shaun has made to the Vodafone Warriors. We’re proud of what he has achieved at the club and wish him the best for the future.”


Johnson finishes his Vodafone Warriors career with 917 points from 162 appearances.