25 July 2024   

The New Zealand Kiwis Head Coach Stacey Jones has finalised his coaching and team staff ahead of the 2024 Pacific Championships, featuring six former Kiwis.   

Jones’ selected Assistant Coaches for 2024 are Steve Price, Nathan Cayless, and Adam Blair.  

Price returns for his third year as Kiwis Assistant Coach having been with the team since the 2021 Rugby League World Cup. Jones’ former Kiwis teammate Cayless also returns to the staff after serving as Kiwis Assistant Coach and Kiwis A Head Coach last year.   

Jones shared, “Steve Price brings his defensive mindset. That was a big part of the group last year, having a strong defensive game plan and he brought that. Nathan Cayless has a strong connection with our middle forwards and brings both attacking and defensive knowledge.”  

50-Test Kiwi Adam Blair enters his maiden season as Kiwis Assistant Coach off the back of his involvement with both Kiwis and Kiwis A teams last year.  

Blair shared, “The Kiwis has always given me a place of purpose… to be able to represent my country and my family was always an honour.  

“Now being given an opportunity to be involved as an Assistant Coach, it is a privilege to help shape the next generation of Kiwi players. I am a competitor and want the Kiwis to be the best team in the world.”  

Jones said, “It is very important to keep familiar people around the team. I expressed to a few senior players when I got the job that I wanted to keep things as familiar as possible, knowing that the people involved were quality coaches.”  

The team’s wider staff is bolstered by Stephen Kearney, the 2008 World Cup-winning Kiwis Head Coach & former Kiwi who steps into the role of Culture & Leadership Advisor.   

“I saw what Steve did in the campaign last year, the connection he created by giving the group a good understanding of what playing for the Kiwis means. Steve’s got a strong insight into that.”  

Daryl Halligan (Kicking Coach) and David Solomona (Wellbeing Manager) round out the cohort of six former Kiwis in Jones’ team staff.  

“It’s important having past players around so that the present playing group has a good understanding of what the past has brought to the jersey.”

The New Zealand Kiwis will play in the Pacific Championships international Test series later this year, with a full schedule to be released.  

 

New Zealand Kiwis Team Staff 2024

Stacey Jones

Head Coach | NZ Warriors Assistant Coach & former Kiwi

Steve Price

Assistant Coach | Cronulla Sharks Assistant Coach

Nathan Cayless

Assistant Coach | Parramatta Eels NRL Assistant Coach/NSW Cup Head Coach & former Kiwi

Adam Blair

Assistant Coach | 50 Tests for Kiwis

Daryl Halligan

Kicking Coach | Former Kiwi

Stephen Kearney

Culture & Leadership Advisor | 2008 World Cup-winning Kiwis Head Coach & former Kiwi

Matty Jay

Head of Strength & Conditioning | Newcastle Knights

Donny Singe

Trainer | Two-time NRL winner with Manly Sea Eagles

Daniel Miladinski  

Head Physiotherapist | Newcastle Knights

Jed Smethurst

Physiotherapist | NZ Warriors

Greg Macleod

Team Doctor | Canberra Raiders

David Solomona

Wellbeing Manager | Former Kiwi

Nadene Conlon

Team Manager | NZ Warriors Female Programme Manager & former Kiwi Fern

Phil Roache

Logistics Manager

Richard Becht

Media Manager

Craig Priest

Content Manager

Eddy Vaeau

Videographer | Redcliffe Dolphins

Motu Tony

NZRL GM Football & High Performance

8 July 2024

On Sunday Kiwi #755 Rotorua native Jared Waerea-Hargreaves became the Sydney Roosters most capped player of all time with 307 games, coming up with 143 run metres, six stitches in his head and a sin binning as the Roosters climbed to third on the ladder.

The Roosters ensured favourite son Waerea-Hargreaves celebrated his milestone game in style by downing the Dragons 42-12 at Allianz Stadium.

Fittingly it was Waerea-Hargreaves laying the platform the opening try with a storming run that finished just short of the tryline before Sam Walker grubbered expertly for Victor Radley to follow through and score.

Come the 17th minute and the Roosters went down to 12 men when milestone man Waerea-Hargreaves was sin binned for a dangerous tackle but the Dragons were unable to capitalise despite having a number of tackles inside the red zone.

Post-win he shared, “It’s a really proud moment for myself, my team, and my family.

“I’m really proud and honoured to be part of something special and to be part of this proud club.”

2024 has proven to be a momentous year in Waerea-Hargreaves’ career as he celebrated playing his 300th NRL game earlier in March.

Waerea-Hargreaves will venture to the UK following this NRL season after signing a one-year deal with Hull KR for the 2025 Betfred Super League season.

25 June 2024

As seen on nrl.com

The NRL has today announced the nominees for this year’s Ken Stephen Medal – Man of the Year, which recognises the efforts of an NRL player who has not only achieved on the field, but has committed time off the field to community projects.

The nominees for the Ken Stephen Medal form the annual NRL Community Team of the Year with players nominated by their NRL clubs for going above and beyond in their charity work, youth development or community support.

Established in 2007, the NRL Community Awards have become the most significant opportunity for our game’s unsung heroes to receive the recognition and thanks they deserve for the tireless work they do in the community. It also provides an opportunity for the NRL to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution that clubs, state leagues and both NRL and NRLW players make year on year.

This year will be the 36th instance that the Ken Stephen Medal will be awarded, with a host of worthy recipients receiving this prestigious award since Wayne Pearce won the most prestigious community award in 1988. The last Kiwi to have won the Medal was Ruben Wiki in 2007 with the Warriors’ Tohu Harris being the only Kiwi nominated this year.

Tohu’s commitment to community service across Aotearoa is exemplary, balancing his demanding schedule with the Warriors. He actively engages in school visits, community events, and recently leading the Warriors’ playing group in welcoming youth ambassadors – ensuring impactful experiences for each student.

The Warriors are wholeheartedly behind Tohu’s initiatives, recognising his positive impact on community, player development, and team morale.

His involvement in community inspires his fellow players, fostering a culture of community engagement within the team. Tohu collaborates closely with the community team to prioritise meaningful engagement with activities ranging from supporting youth and inspiring school children to promoting rugby league initiatives.

His seamless integration of charity work into club commitments sets a high standard of sportsmanship and service, motivating his peers to participate. Tohu’s efforts have significantly boosted community activation participation and raised substantial funds for charity.

He actively supports hospital visits, literacy programs, and various community projects, demonstrating a steadfast commitment to youth development and community well-being.

Through initiatives like the League in Libraries creative writing competition and his mentoring roles, Tohu continues to cultivate a culture of giving back, leaving a lasting impact on communities and inspiring positive change.

Click here to cast your vote!

15 May 2024

As seen on smh.com.au

Sydney Roosters fans should be thanking Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for helping deliver Joey Manu to Bondi Junction.

Two of the nicest Kiwis you will ever meet were set to go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon at Allianz Stadium, completing the circle on a remarkable rugby league story, but RTS has succumbed to a hamstring injury and Manu is out after suffering a head knock.

Tuivasa-Sheck played on the wing when the Roosters won the premiership in 2013. He then joined the Warriors in 2016 then switched to Super Rugby in 2022. He went on to play three Tests for the All Blacks, then returned to the Warriors this year.

Tuivasa-Sheck, now 30, but somehow still looks 17, revealed on Monty Betham’s Once A Warrior podcast late last year how the Warriors had shown him clips of Manu, the way he was given a licence to roam in the centres, and how that was what they had in mind for him.

Tuivasa-Sheck liked what he saw. Maybe Warriors supporters should be sending Manu a little thanks for helping seal the deal with “RTS”.

Anyways, back to the story about Tuivasa-Sheck and how he put Manu on the Roosters’ radar.

You have to go back to 2011 in Auckland, where the New Zealand Rugby League National Secondary Schools Tournament was underway. Tuivasa-Sheck was the rugby star leading Otahuhu College, who went on to win the whole thing.

Manu who was only 15, three years younger than Tuivasa-Sheck – was a reserve for Tokoroa High School, a lowly bush team with his father, Nooroa, one of the assistant coaches.

According to Manu Junior and Senior, there were rugby league scouts everywhere that week, just to catch a glimpse of Tuivasa-Sheck. Manu had heard about Tuivasa-Sheck, but was blown away by what he actually witnessed in the flesh.

Nooroa recalled Tokoroa being shunted to one of the back fields, well out of sight, when a player went down injured. Joey got the call to warm up.

 

Joey Manu (far left) and the Tokoroa High School team of 2011 at the New Zealand Rugby League National Secondary Schools Tournament, that changed everything.

 

“We were playing against Southern Cross, Joe was a reserve, he was only 15, we had an injury, we tried to find him, and he was kicking the ball with one of the coach’s grandsons,” Nooroa recalls.

“So Joe dawdles over, we sub him in for a centre, he comes on, the game is tight, and the ball comes to him. We were all like, ‘Joe, just don’t drop the ball’. But he dummies, beats the centre, then steps the fullback and offloads. He did those three things, had one more run, then we brought him off. He was on for about eight minutes.

“Then a scout who was in town for Roger, Peter O’Sullivan, came up to us after that game and said, ‘We think he’s got a future’. We were like, ‘Joe? He doesn’t even play league, he plays rugby’. They told us they were keen to fly him over to Sydney for games, and we thought they were kidding.

“He was doing well in rugby. League was played on a Sunday where we lived, and Sundays were for church. We didn’t believe the Roosters until the contract was emailed. That’s when we realised they were serious.”

 

Joey Manu (back right) with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (front right) in 2014. Also pictured is Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

 

Manu told this masthead during the week that had it not been for the interest in Tuivasa-Sheck, maybe, just maybe, he would not have been given the chance to spend more than a decade at the Roosters, where he has won two premierships and become a fan favourite.

“I’m glad they all came over to watch him [Tuivasa-Sheck] because I ended up getting picked up, too,” Manu says. “I actually remember that game I played at that tournament. I was up against big Islander boys. I was scared as, and I was as skinny as.

“I also remember watching Roger. Even when we got home, he was all over the news. He was the man. I used to record the games and watch his step. It was crazy to watch.”

Manu would fly to Sydney on school holidays and at Christmas. In 2013, he played more than half a dozen games in the Roosters’ SG Ball side. Nooroa would drive more than two hours to Auckland in the early hours of Friday, sometimes a Thursday night, put his son on a plane to Sydney where he would train at Matraville that night, play Saturday, then fly home Sunday.

 

Joey Manu with parents Darnel and Nooroa in 2013.

 

In those early years, Manu played with Tuivasa-Sheck’s younger brother, Johnny. The pair, along with Latrell and Shaq Mitchell, as well as Angus Crichton, were part of the 2014 SG Ball side that took out the title.

“When I was in the under-20s, we’d train against Roger and the first team,” Manu says. “We’d get smashed. We were basically tackling bags for them.”

Two years later and Joey went on to make his NRL debut for the Roosters in 2016 – and the rest is history.

Read more on smh.com.au

15 May 2024

The New Zealand Rugby League mourns the passing of Richard Bolton, a player, coach, manager and administrator who left an indelible mark on on rugby league in New Zealand.

Born on June 4, 1943, Bolton carved out a strong career as a loose forward, representing Auckland and Mount Albert clubs. His playing highlight was undoubtedly his selection for the 1972 tour of Australia, where he earned his sole New Zealand Test cap as Kiwi #499. Despite missing out on World Cup selection that year, Bolton contributed significantly to Māori Rugby League. He represented them as a player in 1972 and later captained the side to victory in the inaugural Pacific Cup in 1986. He repeated this feat in 1988 and served as a trainer for the Māori team in 1990.

Bolton’s leadership extended beyond the playing field. He served on the NZMRL board and coached Waikato from 1987 to 88. His dedication to the sport’s development shone through his roles as manager of the Howie Tamati-coached Kiwis from 1992 to 93 and the 2005 Junior Kiwis. Notably, he was pivotal in establishing the National Secondary Schools competition while serving as the NZRL’s National Development Officer.

Bolton’s commitment to Auckland Rugby League as deputy chairman further cemented his legacy as a tireless administrator. In 2013, he was awarded an NZRL Life Membership, a fitting tribute to his lifelong service to the game.

The New Zealand Rugby League extends its deepest condolences to Richard Bolton’s family and friends. He will be remembered as a versatile player, a leader, and a passionate contributor who helped shape the sport not only on the field but also from the sidelines.

Richard Bolton, former New Zealand rugby league player and coach. 1995. Copyright photo: www.photosport.nz

19 April 2024

As seen on nrl.com

Melbourne Storm forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona has dismissed reports of a rift with coach Craig Bellamy after making a successful return from injury in Thursday night’s win over the Roosters.

The 115-kilogram behemoth injured his hamstring early in the pre-season and battled multiple setbacks in the recovery process throughout a frustrating summer.

The injury struggles came as speculation mounted over his future in Melbourne, with reports suggesting the New Zealand international had fallen out with Bellamy.

Asofa-Solomona, however, has put the speculation to bed and declared his desire to see out his current contract through to its conclusion in 2027.

“I put in a lot of work in the off-season so to have rumours thrown around like that and to have my name get thrown through the mud was just wrong,” Asofa-Solomona said.

“I wanted to correct it but the people close to me knew the truth. They said don’t worry about it, don’t listen to the noise.

“I just control what I can control. I can’t control what people say on the outside, what I can do is play good footy and let my footy do the talking.”

Asofa-Solomona ran for 70 metres and made 17 tackles in 32 minutes on Thursday night in his return to the NRL.

The Storm ultimately prevailed 18-12 in a tense clash in which both sides struggled to find their groove.

Asofa-Solomona’s performance came after two appearances in reserve grade for the North Sydney Bears.

While there was no rift, Bellamy did challenge him to be better during the off-season and was pleased with the forward’s outing.

“I thought he did a good job,” Bellamy said after Thursday’s game.

“There’s a little bit around his defence that we were a little bit concerned about but he knew what that was. He made a conscious effort tonight to improve that and he did.

“He carried the ball real strong for us. They [did] a pretty good job to handle him like they did. The real improvement was in a couple of those defensive actions that we need from him to be more consistent.

“He did it tonight and hopefully as we go on he’ll get more and more game time and be a real benefit for us.”

Asofa-Solomona knows he has a long way to go before he returns to the form that made him among the most damaging forwards in the game.

He’s confident, however, he’s on the right track and views Thursday’s match as a stepping stone.

Emotions will be high next week when the Storm host the Rabbitohs on Anzac Day, with Asofa-Solomona eager to lead his team to their third-straight victory.

“I had a good talk with the coaches [in the off-season],” he said. “It’s about applying the energy in the right place for the team. I feel like last year I let my team down being too aggressive, making silly errors of judgement, trying to get into scuffles.

“It’s not part of the game and it’s not part of my game anymore. I’m trying to rub it out, trying to do what’s right for the team.”

As seen on nrl.com

19 April 2024

As seen on nrl.com

Jesse Bromwich is proof that we don’t always get it right when it comes to defining what makes a marquee player in sport.

That term is derived from the Hollywood-style names that used to adorn cinemas and theatres to grab people’s attention and lure them inside. It’s the type of stuff a no-nonsense prop from south Auckland has little hope of ever living up to.

But what he lacks in ability to draw a crowd – or in most cases even be noticed in one – Jesse makes up for with his knack for attracting people that do have star power.

In that way he has been the marquee player for a Dolphins club who have been accused of failing to sign one so far.

“We will be indebted to Jesse forever,” Dolphins CEO Terry Reader tells NRL.com.

“The first thing Wayne [Bennett] said to me and Peter O’Sullivan when we hung up from talking to Jesse when we were recruiting him was ‘there’s our captain, boys’.

That legacy continues to grow now in season 15, which Jesse says will definitely be his last, and as of this Friday night it’ll include achieving something nobody in the game’s 116-year history has ever done before – starting 300 games at prop.

Through the opening 12 games of his NRL career, all of which began from the bench, Jesse used to watch players like Brett White, Adam Blair and Jeff Lima excel in the aggression and energy of the opening exchanges.

He was happy just to be playing, but being a passenger for the first 20 minutes didn’t feel right.

“I used to burn up so much energy sitting there. Up and pacing around, just wanting to get out there, and I always thought ‘man, it’d be good to start, just to get out there and straight into it’,” Jesse says.

Since then he’s managed to do it more than any other front-rower in the history game, with Friday night’s encounter against the Eels at TIO Stadium in Darwin marking his 300th starting appearance at prop in the NRL.

While the hunger was always there, Jesse credits the nine weeks he spent in camp with the Kiwis back at the 2013 World Cup – in a forward group that included players like Simon Mannering – for making him embrace what it was to lead from the front from the very first minute every week.

In the 238 club games he’s played since that tournament, he’s failed to start just twice.

Having watched the now 34-year-old all the way through his career, former Storm assistant and long-time Kiwis coach Michael Maguire says what makes him such a great starting prop is simple.

“You always know what you’ll get from Jesse and that he can handle all the intensities from the start,” Maguire says.

“You know that the first 20 minutes, especially in a Test match, will be flat out and intense and you know Jesse can handle those moments.”

Growing up Jesse got used to being knocked back by Auckland rep selectors, who with the exception of his final year at high school, knocked him back for every age-group team.

On one particular occasion when Jesse was 16, his dad Mike decided enough was enough and took matters into his own hands.

“They had four different games at this trial day and they wouldn’t even give him a run. He was pretty disheartened,” Mike says.

“Straight after that I signed him up at the gym. I’d get him up at 5.30 in the morning, every day I’d drag him and Kenny out of bed, no mucking around.

“The next year Jesse went back and he was killing it, it made all the difference.”

With nothing much happening in rugby league at home, Jesse headed to Orange, New South Wales after high school seeking better work opportunities and to play in the Group 10 competition.

A move to Melbourne to join the rest of his family, who had relocated for Mike’s work, ended up putting him in front of Storm selectors, thanks to a request from Kenny, who already been signed at this stage, to let his brother come and train.

In a somewhat cruel twist of fate at the time Jesse ended up taking the U-20 spot Melbourne had reserved for his younger brother in 2009, and while it delayed Kenny’s advancement by another 12 months, it also marked the emergence of Jesse as an NRL prospect and he never looked back.

At every step since he’s approached rugby league in a way that reflects his working-class roots.

Growing up in south Auckland, both he and Kenny saw their parents work hard – Mike laying drains and later working in an aluminum factory and Alex making a living at a local food distribution plant.

The family unit was and still is incredibly tight, evidenced by both boys insisting on playing together throughout their career and the decision of their parents, along with sister Paula, to relocate to Brisbane from Melbourne in order to be closer to them in recent times.

Cowboys prop Jordan McLean, who spent five seasons playing alongside Jesse and Kenny at the Storm, says those factors helped create dream teammates who have no ego, and he believes it’s a big reason why Jesse has become such a sought-after leader.

“The way he got into an NRL system is not the normal way of getting into a team, so he’s always been very humble in his approach to it,” McLean says.

“If something needs to be done he puts his hand up.

“He’s from humble beginnings and comes from a hard-working family, he’s been brought up well by his old boy and old girl.”

“In a way I’m a bit happy that he’s finishing,” Mike tells NRL.com when asked about his oldest boys’ looming retirement.

“It’s been a real long journey, we’ve been through so much, and I think Jesse is ready to finish.

There will be plenty of special occasions to mark over the next five months or so before the boots are hung up, including a Round 25 return to Melbourne.

But at the top of that list will be the final game on New Zealand soil for the Bromwich brothers together, which barring a finals match-up against the Warriors on that side of the Tasman, will come in Round 12.

It has always been a special trip for the proud Kiwis and a chance to celebrate with their whānau (family) still living in New Zealand.

“Every time they run out in games against the Warriors it brings a tear to my eye,” Mike says.

“It’s definitely always been special for them to play in New Zealand. To catch up with the old coaches and some of their friends, it means a lot to them, they still love the place.

“It’ll be an emotional one to watch for the last time.”

But first, there’s a more memories and history to be made.

Read more on nrl.com

19 April 2024

As seen on cowboys.com

The 10 Test match Kiwi David Faiumu will join Kiwi Ferns head coach Ricky Henry as an assistant coach for the 2024 NRLW season. Faiumu spent the previous two years working under Henry as an assistant coach for the Kiwi Ferns, including for their historic 12-6 victory over Australia in last year’s Pacific Championships.

An International in his own right, Faiumu made 10 appearances for the Kiwis, including the 2005 Tri-Nations grand final triumph over Australia.

David Faiumu appeared in the first grand final in North Queensland Toyota Cowboys history as a player in 2005, he’ll now be attempting to guide the Cowboys to premiership glory as a coach.

Faiumu, Cowboys NRL player No.162, appeared in 76 NRL games for the Cowboys between 2004-2008 before relocating to England where he compiled a glittering 162-game stint with Huddersfield in the UK Super League.

Following his playing retirement in 2014, Faiumu moved into a development role with Huddersfield before returning to Australia. He has had a long association with the CQ Capras based in Rockhampton, including three seasons as Queensland Cup Head Coach and stints in operational roles within the football department.

Aside from his role with the Cowboys, Faiumu will also join the staff at Kirwan State High School, working as a programs coordinator and in youth wellbeing.

Faiumu will be one of two assistant coaches working under Henry, joining Alicia-Kate Hawke.

“It’s fantastic to be able to bring back an ex-Cowboy, who contributed so much to the club as a player, to be part of our NRLW coaching staff,” Head of NRLW and Women’s Elite Pathways Anita Creenaune said.

“David’s experience as a player, coaching resume and importantly, knowledge of our club and what we stand for, made him a clear top candidate to complete our coaching staff.

“All our coaching staff, including David, have made enormous sacrifices, uprooting their lives and in some cases leaving their family behind to be a part of our club and help guide our NRLW players. We believe we have assembled a staff who will give us the best opportunity to perform on the field and also to guide our players in their off-field lives.”

Read more on cowboys.com

17 April 2024

As seen on warriors.kiwi

Kiwi captain and powerhouse Penrith prop James Fisher-Harris has signed a four-year deal to join the One New Zealand Warriors from next season.

The 28-year-old Northlander has reached agreement with Penrith to be released from the last two seasons of his contract on compassionate grounds so he can move back to New Zealand to be closer to his family.

A 183-game NRL veteran, Fisher-Harris has been at the forefront of Penrith’s run of three consecutive premiership wins in 2021, 2022 and 2023 while he also played in the 2020 grand final.

He led the Kiwis to a record 30-0 win over the Kangaroos in the Pacific Championships final last year culminating in him winning the Golden Boot player of the year award along with the New Zealand Rugby League’s player of the year accolade.

“We’re absolutely delighted to be able to sign James,” said One New Zealand Warriors CEO Cameron George.

“It’s a huge signing for us, undoubtedly one of the biggest in our club’s history.

“To be able to add a player of his calibre and standing to our squad is a tremendous boost for 2025 and beyond. He’s such a highly-respected player and leader.”

One New Zealand Warriors head coach Andrew Webster and Fisher-Harris will be reunited after working together when Webster was an assistant coach at Penrith for the grand final-winning seasons in 2021 and 2022.

“It’s going to be fantastic having James with us. He’s one of the game’s elite players, a super tough forward who sets and demands the highest standards,” said Webster.

“I loved working with him at the Panthers and we really look forward to bringing him into our system from next season. He’ll add terrific value to our roster, to the club overall and he’ll also be invaluable as a mentor for our young players coming through.”

Fisher-Harris, born in Kohukohu in the Far North, made his NRL debut with Penrith in 2016 followed by his Kiwi Test debut later the same year. Rising to become Kiwi captain last year, he has played a total of 15 Tests. He has also captained the Māori All Stars.

“James has such standing in the game. He’s a player with real mana who commands respect on and off the field,” said One New Zealand Warriors general manager recruitment, pathways and development Andrew McFadden.

George said the One New Zealand Warriors won’t be making further comment about signing Fisher-Harris out of respect to the commitment he has to Penrith for the rest of this season.

Read more on warriors.kiwi

5 April 2024

As seen on nrl.com

His career didn’t start there, and for a long time recently didn’t look like finishing there either, but it feels right that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will be wearing a Warriors jersey as he celebrates 200 NRL games this Saturday.

Players like ‘RTS’ – who when it’s all said and done will probably be regarded as the best Kiwi talent of his generation – don’t become available too often, and when they do it sets off a feeding frenzy between clubs, with plenty having tried in vain to lure him to their shores over the past decade-or-so.

So how is it that where so many others failed, the Warriors succeeded not once, but on two separate occasions, in signing the rugby league virtuoso?

Back in 2016 when they first achieved it they were effectively righting a wrong which had long irked their fanbase, signing the then 21-year-old superstar they had let the Roosters steal from under their nose as a teenager.

A second raid last year to bring Tuivasa-Sheck back after he’d left for rugby union in mid-2021 – following a successful six-season stint at Go Media Stadium – was even more audacious and saw the Warriors beat out a host of NRL and global rugby union clubs to secure his signature.

Home again now, on a three-year deal that almost certainly means it’s for good this time, there’s a sense of relief and pride across the board in Auckland that the fullback-turned-centre will be celebrating his latest career milestone as a Warrior.

“There’s a lot of satisfaction in bringing Roger back,” Andrew McFadden, the Warriors recruitment boss who helped secure Tuivasa-Sheck’s signature for both his stints at the club, tells NRL.com.

“But it’s terrific that he’s back in our team. We’re certainly glad that he’s here and that we can celebrate that 200 with him.

“From those 200 games, 199 of them will have been first-class games. He rarely has a bad game.”

This week Tuivasa-Sheck’s teammates Tohu Harris and Jazz Tevaga each recounted meetings with their friend prior to him signing back with the Warriors, which began to sow the seeds for a return that only months earlier had seemed highly unlikely.

In the background the Warriors had been persistently knocking at the door, staying in regular contact with Tuivasa-Sheck’s management team about a potential return, despite being met with various versions of ‘thanks, but no thanks’.

Eventually they got the sit down they’d been after though and just minutes into it McFadden realised their dream was a real chance of becoming a reality.

“I was at the original meeting when we met and Roger’s body language – he got very excited very quickly,” McFadden said.

“It was after that meeting that I went ‘oh, we’re a chance here’.

“It’s funny with Roger, I know he’s very ambitious and wanted to be an All Black, and he achieved that, but I always thought that his game didn’t suit union.

“His game is built on effort over time and I’m not sure that union sort of allows that with the stoppages. When fatigue comes in, that’s when Roger really comes into his own. His power, his strength, his endurance.

“That’s why I always had it in my mind that he might return, and I knew that with Andrew Webster here he’d be able to put something together that would really excite Roger.”

The Warriors acknowledged Tuivasa-Sheck with a presentation on Wednesday that included a screening of what Tevaga described as a “20-minute-long highlight reel”, featuring some of the best moments from his 11 seasons in the NRL so far.

Afterwards Webster said it was clear how much it meant to the 30-year-old to be reaching the milestone as a Warrior.

“He wanted to come back to his hometown team… Roger was like ‘yeah, I want to come here, I like the vision, I like where the place is going. If I’m going to play rugby league I want to play at the Warriors’,” Webster said.

“He’s had a great journey with lots of life experiences.

“To put an All Blacks jersey on, Kiwis jersey, Warriors jersey, be at the Roosters and win a grand final; he’s had a great career.

Read more on nrl.com

As seen on nrl.com

Well-travelled hooker Danny Levi’s early-season renaissance has been a microcosm of Canberra’s gritty, expectations-defying start to 2024.

Unfancied by many pundits heading into the season despite back-to-back finals appearances, the Raiders followed up a Round 1 upset in Newcastle and a convincing home win over Wests Tigers with arguably their best performance so far in a gutsy 18-10 loss to the Warriors.

As seen on nrl.com

Launched by the Rugby League Players Association in March, the Mana Group is a player advisory body aimed to represent the over 45 per cent of Māori and Pasifika players and leaders within the game.

As seen on nrl.com

Merely hearing Rocco Berry’s name draws out an involuntary smile and chuckle from the Warriors’ coaching staff and his teammates, reflecting the centre tyro’s popularity in the squad for indefinable off-field qualities as much as his more clear-cut attributes.

In a promising yet patchy start to 2024 for a team whose premiership window is wide open, Berry has been among the club’s most consistent players across the opening three rounds.

“I think he’s been excellent, Rocco,” said coach Andrew Webster after the Warriors’ tough 18-10 win over Canberra, before briefly interrupting his footy-focused answer as skipper Tohu Harris grinned like there was an inside joke we’re not in on.

“We love him, yeah, the mention of his name puts a smile on everyone’s face, for different reasons.

“There’s some flashy plays there, but there’s more hard work than anything.”

Likewise, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s face beams with happiness when asked about his right-edge partner’s rapid improvement and rousing start to the season.

“I’m loving playing outside Rocco, I’ve got the best seat in the house to see what he really does,” the winger said while clutching a fan-made poster of Berry snaffled from the Christchurch crowd to take home to his kids.

“We see what he’s doing and he’s getting better and better each week.

“He’s a good kid, eh, he’s young and he was the baby for quite a while … straight out of school and straight from rugby (union).

“He’s keen on learning, he’s a humble kid and he’s really liked by the group.”

One of the more unheralded members of the Warriors’ line-up, Berry’s high-level contribution to their first win of the season was hard to miss.

In a tense encounter with the Raiders – only his 34th in the NRL – the 22-year-old hit his mark in a series of big moments on both sides of the ball, including an early try-saver on Hudson Young to force an error, a superb in-goal take of a dangerous bomb and a slick touch in the lead-up to Luke Metcalf’s pivotal second-half try.

He was similarly impressive in tight losses to Cronulla and Melbourne – and absorbing individual battles with Siosifa Talakai and Reimis Smith, respectively – cementing his position in a well-stocked backline.

“I feel like our edge is building well, we’re starting to put together full performances and I’m just trying to get on the back of players like ‘Shauny’ (Johnson), do my job and be consistent with that each week,” Berry said.

Amid a cavalcade of career-best campaigns from established representative players, Berry was the breakout apprentice of the Warriors’ incredible 2023 resurgence.

But as the club was enjoying runaway-train momentum, he was initially left at the station, recovering from a foot complaint before an injury to Ed Kosi provided his first opportunity of season in Round 11.

By the end of the year, he had more than doubled his first-grade appearances tally and featured prominently in the Warriors’ drive to their first preliminary final in over a decade.

“I hadn’t played a consistent amount of games in my first few years at the Warriors and obviously being able to do that [last season], I got a lot of confidence heading into this season and getting a good, full pre-season in,” Berry added.

“I was playing with great players and I knew I had to be on my game each week to keep up with them. I just believed in everything ‘Webby’ was putting in front of us, the advice he was giving me and the belief he had in me.”

Playing his part in a compelling Warriors title bid is Berry’s sole focus for now, but maintaining his current form will surely see him come into calculations for Stacey Jones’ inaugural Kiwis team later in the year, particularly if Roosters ace Joey Manu opts to leave the game at the end of 2024.

Read more on nrl.com

As seen on nrl.com

Congratulations to Kiwi #755 Rotorua native Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who celebrated the huge milestone of his 300th NRL game over the weekend. The 33-Test match Kiwi debuted in 2009 and is now his fifteenth season as the Roosters forward pack’s leader and enforcer.

Sydney Roosters team-mates were describing how they planned to honour Jared Waerea-Hargreaves just before running out for his 300th match when the dressing room doors opened, and he saw daughters Zahli and Harper waiting for him.

“I sort of knew what was happening, but just to see them physically, right there, that sort of made me feel a little bit emotional,” Waerea-Hargreaves told NRL.com after Friday night’s 48-6 triumph against arch-rivals South Sydney.

By Will Evans

The New Zealand Rugby League is mourning the loss of champion goalkicking forward John Bond, a seven-Test Kiwi of the 1950s whose club career spanned an incredible 22 years.

Bond, 92, passed away on Sunday, March 10.

A highly respected prop or second-rower for Papanui, Marist, Kaiapoi, Canterbury, South Island and New Zealand, ‘Bondy’ became Kiwi #351 during a memorable era for the national team.

Bond’s rugby league journey began as a 15-year-old. Struggling to get a game of union at Belfast, Bond’s father – Roy, a speedy former Marist winger who represented Canterbury and South Island in 1930 – told him he was playing the wrong game and encouraged him to sign up with Papanui.

That was 1947, and he survived a baptism of fire in the rugged senior club competition – including copping a headbutt from the revered Pat Smith. Just four years later Bond earned his provincial spurs for Canterbury and in 1953 he received a maiden Kiwis call-up.

Bond, just 21, was drafted into the New Zealand line-up at prop for fellow Cantabrian Lory Blanchard, who broke a collarbone playing for Linwood, for the series-opening Test against Australia in Christchurch.

The hosts romped to a 25-5 win over an Australian side boasting such luminaries as Brian Carlson, Harry Wells, Keith Holman, Roy Bull, Ken Kearney, Brian Davies and captain-coach Clive Churchill – though future Immortal Churchill was the only player Bond had heard of. The tyro gave an excellent account of himself in the front-row and displayed his goalkicking talents with a goal from the sideline in the latter stages.

“During the match I remember (captain) Jimmy Haig saying to me, ‘I’ll boot your arse you lazy bugger’, and I thought I was slogging my guts out!” Bond recounted for The Kiwis: 100 Years of International Rugby League.

“Then after the game Jimmy came up and said, ‘You went a good one, young Jack’. He rewarded me by giving me that shot at goal, even if it was right from the sideline.”

Bond reveals he could easily have debuted for his country on the tour of Australia a year earlier after trialling strongly…but his penchant for a good time during his younger days delayed his progression.

In a classic ‘boys will be boys’ yarn, Bond and some Papanui teammates went to a dance in Stillwater while on an away trip to the West Coast with the Canterbury side. Bond arrived back at the team accommodation at 6am and met long-serving Canterbury coach Jim Amos on the stairs. Amos, who took over as coach of the Kiwis in 1952, was on his way to church.

“That was the reason I didn’t get chosen in ’52 – he didn’t tell me that until ’54 when we went to the World Cup,” Bond recalled in 2018 without a hint of hard feelings. “He said, ‘I’ve got to vouch for every guy’s character in this team’.”

But Bond won Amos over eventually, playing all but one of his Tests for New Zealand under his coaching.

Bond held his front-row spot for the remainder of New Zealand’s 2-1 series win over the Australian tourists in ’53, while he scored his only Test try in the following year’s series opener against Great Britain at Carlaw Park after starting in the second-row.

Later in 1954 he was part of the New Zealand squad for the inaugural World Cup in France, historic also for being the Kiwis’ first Northern Hemisphere air voyage. New Zealand played France in the tournament opener in Paris and, with legendary goalkicker Des White unavailable for the World Cup, Bond booted two goals in a 22-13 loss. He also played in the 26-6 defeat to Great Britain in Bordeaux, before slotting three goals in New Zealand’s non-Test exhibition clash with Australia in Los Angeles enroute home.

Bond was on the plane again for the Kiwis’ 1955-56 tour of Britain and France, tallying three tries from nine appearances and playing the last of his seven Tests in the 28-13 dead-rubber victory over Great Britain at Leeds.

 

Three 1954 Kiwis forwards on tour. Ginger McLennan (L), John Yates and John Bond.

 

After being out of favour with coach Harold Tetley throughout the tour, Bond said his standout performance in Great Britain’s first-ever loss at the famed Headingley ground was the highlight of his Kiwis tenure.

Bond toured Australia with the Kiwis in 1956, playing six games – including a two-try performance against Wide Bay – without being able to force his way into the Test line-up.

He represented South Island until 1956 and helped Papanui to its first championship in 1957, before playing hooker for Canterbury against Great Britain in 1958 and hanging up the boots at the end of that season. But Bond rescinded his retirement in 1962 to play for Marist then took on a player-coach role with fledgling Kaiapoi in 1965.

Bond, a wool presser at the freezing works during his playing days, permanently called time on his club career in 1969.

In 2017 he was invited to speak to the Kiwis squad in the lead-up to their clash with Scotland in Christchurch, imparting some basic-but-vital knowledge on the players following along the World Cup trail he helped blaze 63 years earlier in France.

“I said to them, ‘This game’s simple, all you’ve got do is use this – I pointed to my head – and these, and I showed them my hands’.”

JOHN BOND
NEW ZEALAND (1953-55)
7 Tests – 1 try, 2 goals (7 points)
15 tour matches – 4 tries, 3 goals (18 points)
-1954 World Cup tour
-1955-56 Kiwis tour of Great Britain and France
-1956 Kiwis tour of Australia

As seen on NRL.com

After stealing the show on the grand stage that was the NRL’s historic double-header in Las Vegas on Sunday, Joey Manu admitted there were times last week when playing rugby league on the other side of the world was the last thing he wanted to be doing.

The Kiwi Test star remained in Sydney after his teammates departed for the US late last month as he awaited the birth of his daughter, and when she eventually arrived on February 24 Manu decided he wouldn’t travel to take on the Broncos at Allegiant Stadium.

But some arm twisting from coach Trent Robinson triggered a change of heart, with the 27-year-old arriving days before kick-off and going on to play a starring role in his side’s 20-10 win over last year’s beaten grand finalists.

“Once she came, I wanted to stay home. I tried to stay home. But ‘Robbo’ told me to get on the plane and come over here,” Manu said after the game.

“Only the second day after she came, I had to pretty much go [to the US].

“It was full on, no sleep. It was tough leaving my wife, I just felt like I was helpless really and I felt so bad.

“But she ended up getting her head around it. She was supportive as and said, ‘go do your thing and come home to us next week’.”

And do his thing he did.

A try off an intercept to open the game was followed by a masterful assist in the second half – which saw Manu create space between two defenders before flinging a no-look flick pass out to winger Junior Pauga – played a huge role in the Roosters winning their first season-opener since 2021.

Manu also contributed 165 run metres, eight tackle busts and two line break assists, with the experience of being part of a history-making event worth it in the end.

“To come over here in Vegas, I always wanted to be a part of it,” Manu said.

“I just didn’t want to miss out on the game. It was a good experience out there.

“We’re the first to do it too, so I didn’t want to miss it and it would have been pretty tough watching it from home.

“I’m glad I came over now.”

Meanwhile the two-time premiership winner said he was hopeful of having his immediate playing future sorted soon, as he continues to decide between remaining in the NRL or potentially switching codes to rugby union, which he grew up playing in New Zealand.

“Still in the middle of sorting things out. But Robbo has been awesome. He’s been openminded and he just wants the best for myself,” Manu said.

“I just want the best for myself, my family and the Roosters too.

“Hopefully I can get some things in place. But still up in the air. I just want to knock it on the head and then just get into the season.

“I hope I get to finish my career here or get a few more years here. I came here when I was 16, so to give back to the club, the fans, the members and all that, would be special.

“They kickstarted my career and hopefully I get a few more years… it would be tough to play for a different club.”

Rugby league great Stacey Jones has today been appointed as New Zealand Kiwis head coach to the end of the 2026 Rugby League World Cup.

The much-decorated 47-year-old Jones moves into the role after serving as an assistant coach with the Kiwis since 2018 while he is now in his eighth season as an assistant coach with One New Zealand Warriors in NRL.

“We’re delighted to be appointing an absolute legend of the game to coach the Kiwis,” said NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

“Stacey has served a lengthy apprenticeship with the Warriors and has also been with us as a long-term assistant coach with the Kiwis.

“It’s personally pleasing to see him rewarded with this appointment.

“Not only is he an outstanding individual with a deep knowledge and understanding of ‘The Kiwi Way’, he is a technically astute coach who understands what it takes to operate at the top international level.

“We are grateful to the Warriors for supporting his appointment and allowing him the time to do it.

“We are also excited about the opportunity this appointment provides to bring the game closer together in New Zealand by strengthening the connection with the Warriors.”

Following his glittering playing career, Jones transitioned quickly into coaching with a number of roles with the Warriors.

“This is a huge honour for me,” said Jones.

“It was a special privilege to play for my country and to now have the chance to coach the Kiwis is both exciting and humbling.

“I’ve enjoyed working with the Kiwis over the last few years and seeing the team develop under Madge (Michael Maguire). I’ve learnt so much being involved with such a special group of players.

“I’m hugely grateful to the Warriors for the coaching opportunities they’ve given me to put me in this position and for the way they supported me in my bid for this role wth the Kiwis while continuing to work at the club.”

During his playing career Jones played more than 350 games at the highest level.

He captained the Kiwis and played a total of 46 Tests while he amassed 261 NRL appearances for the Warriors and a further 45 games for Les Catalans Dragons in the Super League.

Awarded the ONZM for services to rugby league, he won the Golden Boot in 2002, was inducted into the NZRL Legends of League, included in the NZRL Team of the Century and has also been inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and the NRL Hall of Fame.

 

 

STACEY JONES

 

Born: May 7, 1976

Birthplace: Auckland, New Zealand

Coaching Career:

New Zealand Kiwis assistant coach 2018-2023

One New Zealand Warriors NRL assistant coach 2017-2024

Māori All Stars head coach 2019

One New Zealand Warriors New South Wales Cup head coach 2015-2016

One New Zealand Warriors NYC head coach 2014

One New Zealand Warriors junior recruitment and pathways coach 2013

Auckland Rugby League football development officer 2012

Point Chevalier Pirates coach 2010-2011

One New Zealand Warriors NRL skills coach 2008

Playing Career:

International: 46 Tests for Kiwis 1995-2006

NRL: 261 appearances for One New Zealand Warriors 1995-2005 & 2009

Super League: 45 appearances for Les Catalans 2006-2007

New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is thrilled to announce an exciting partnership with Dynasty Sport, marking the renowned sportswear brand as the official apparel provider for the next five years.

This partnership marks a significant milestone for both entities as they unite to elevate the presence and performance of New Zealand Rugby League on a global scale.

As the official apparel provider, Dynasty Sport brings its expertise in crafting high-performance, cutting-edge sportswear to outfit NZRL teams and supporters alike.

 

“We are thrilled to welcome Dynasty Sport to the NZRL whanau,” said Greg Peters, CEO of NZRL. “This partnership reflects a shared commitment to excellence, innovation, and the enduring legacy of New Zealand Rugby League.

 

“It’s evident that New Zealand Rugby League and Dynasty Sport share a number of core values. Dynasty Sport has a deep passion for sport spanning across both grassroots and professional teams; we felt very aligned on our relentless commitment to excellence on and off the field.”

 

“We’re excited to have all New Zealand’s Rugby League brands under Dynasty Sport, and together, we look forward to creating unforgettable moments both on and off the field.”

 

Tyler Rakich, co-founder and Director of Dynasty Sport, is equally excited about the new partnership.

“We are extremely passionate about rugby league, and as a Kiwi-owned and operated business, we feel privileged to have our logo on our national team’s jerseys, he said.

“Fans can look forward to a full range of beautifully designed supporters’ apparel in 2024. There will be something for everyone and we can’t wait to see fans wearing it with pride!”

Peters also acknowledged the contribution of the incumbent partner BLK.

“We’re grateful to BLK, who have supported the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns over the last four years.

As we embark on this new chapter with Dynasty Sport, we thank BLK for their partnership and wish them continued success in their future endeavours.”

 

 

About Dynasty Sport

 

We’re sportspeople too. Some of us play, some of us used to, some of us coach and all of us love to watch our favourite teams and athletes compete every week.

​Headquartered in Auckland, with locations across NZ & Australia, Dynasty Sport operates across a global footprint. We are proud to supply high quality on and off-field sports apparel to professional and grassroots sporting organisations, schools, and businesses around the world.

We have a focus on sustainability too. Ecotek, our fabric made from ethically sourced recycled plastic bottles, is used in our ranges, helping fans and organisations make the sustainable choice whenever they can.

Dynasty Sport are leaders in rugby league, with a great reputation amongst fans and organisations for their impressive ranging and designs, high-performance technology and sustainability focus. Most recently, the One NZ Warriors range has been enormously popular. The Cowboys, Titans, Sea Eagles, Tonga Rugby League, Toa Samoa and dozens of grassroots clubs across NZ and Australia also proudly wear Dynasty Sport.

For more information on Dynasty Sport visit www.dynastysport.co.nz

 

 

The New Zealand Rugby League grieves the loss of Paul Schultz, who passed away on February 9, 2024.

Starting his career with Marist in the Auckland Rugby League competition, Schultz quickly became known for his exceptional talent. He played a crucial role in Marist’s consecutive championship wins in 1965 and 1966 before moving on to Point Chevalier.

Representing Auckland with pride, Schultz contributed to historic victories over South Africa in 1963 and Australia in 1969. His dedication earned him a place in the national team, where he played eight test matches and represented New Zealand in the 1968 World Cup.

Schultz’s humility, sportsmanship, and commitment to the game left a lasting impression on all who knew him.

As seen on NRL.com

Kiwi Ferns legend Honey Hireme-Smiler will be part of the Sky Sport commentary team that breaks new ground with unique bilingual commentary on this week’s All Stars games in Townsville.

One of the greatest players to ever pull on a Kiwi Ferns jumper, Hireme-Smiler played 32 Tests and went to four World Cups, and now she finds herself on the other side of the microphone.

“I’m thrilled to see Sky creating innovative ways to foster use and acceptance of reo Māori. This will be a new and unique opportunity for the commentary team, and we are so ready to deliver an awesome immersive experience for New Zealanders,” said Hireme-Smiler.

Sky Sport’s collaboration with the NRL for 2024 kicks off with the two showpiece All Stars games in Townsville this weekend.

Sky Sport has been steadily increasing the use of te reo Māori, but bilingual commentary is another first for the company, highlighting Sky’s dedication to foster cultural diversity and support the normalisation of te reo Māori on air.

Coverage on Sky Sport 1 will be available through Sky, streaming on Sky Sport Now and free to view on Sky Open with an alternative Australian Fox Sport commentary available on Sky Sport 4 or by using the alternative commentary via the yellow button.

The Harvey Norman All Stars will be presented by veteran Māori broadcaster, Te Arahi Maipi (Tainui) with bilingual commentary provided by Dale Husband (Ngāti Maru), Te Aorere Pēwhairangi (Ngāti Porou) and Honey Hireme-Smiler (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Haua, Tainui)

Pre and post-match panel discussions will be led Maipi who will be joined by Warriors captain, Tohu Harris (Ngāti Kahungunu) and Hireme-Smiler.

The success of incorporating te reo Māori into sport coverage was proven during last year’s Harvey Norman All Stars game, reaching more than 100,000 viewers were covered by Te Aorere Pēwhairangi on social media.

As seen on NRL.com

Issac Luke is on the verge of making a shock comeback with the Māori side in next month’s Harvey Norman NRL All Stars, which would see him take the field on the one-year anniversary of his father’s passing.

Despite not playing in the NRL since 2020, the 36-year-old hooker has just completed a full pre-season with Queensland Cup side Souths Logan, after he returned with them for the back end of last season and appeared in three games.

Luke had just arrived home from his week as an assistant coach with the Māori All Stars last February when he found out his dad, George, had passed away following a slip that occurred during Cyclone Gabrielle in New Zealand.

In the months which followed, Luke decided to give top-level football another go as a way to honour George and in recent times he’s been in regular contact with new Māori coach Adam Blair about a comeback for the event in Townsville on February 16.

“If I was to get the chance, I’d be playing for my dad. The game falls on the day he died last year,” Luke told NRL.com.

“I am the second oldest of his children and I spoke to my dad every week, so not being able to have that, it’s tough.

“If I do get the green light [to play] I don’t know how I will handle the occasion… but I am blessed even to be considered.

“[Physically] I’ll be good, I have got through the pre-season with the Magpies (Souths Logan) and have passed everything I needed to.”

Luke descends from the Ngāruahine iwi in southern Taranaki and previously represented the Māori in 2020 and 2021, at the back end of his 286-game NRL career.

Having played numerous Tests alongside him for the Kiwis, before later linking up with him at the Warriors and with the Māori All Stars, Blair knows better than most what Luke can do for a team.

“’Bully’ [Luke] brings players together; he carries a lot of mana from his experience and what he has done in the game,” Blair told NRL.com.

“He’s someone that wears his heart on his sleeve and understands how much it means to be Māori and what this represents.

“To have someone like him around the camp, whether that be as a player or staff, is invaluable to the group.

“He will never let you down, but he will know if he is ready or not.”

After watching Luke progress throughout the pre-season, Souths Logan coach Karmichael Hunt believes the former Kiwi international still has what it takes to play at an elite level, despite his 37th birthday coming up this May.

“No doubt, if he was given an opportunity, he would be able to still do a job at that level,” Hunt told NRL.com.

“You don’t lose your footy nous and ability to think your way through a contest and Bully still picks our defence apart at training; he is as crafty as can be with the ball.

“He’s in really good condition…. he’s had a full pre-season and is looking really good.”

See the ultimate celebration of culture and showcase of pride at NRL Harvey Norman All Stars. Grab your tickets here.

The New Zealand Rugby League community is mourning the loss of one of its greatest-ever players, Kiwi #323 Des White.

 

The NZRL Team of the Century fullback, Auckland Immortal, goalkicker extraordinaire and former Test coach has passed away, aged 96.

 

White played 21 Tests for New Zealand from 1951-56 and scored a then-record 132 points, cementing his legacy with a world record 11 goals in an unprecedented 49-25 thrashing of Australia in Brisbane in 1952 that set the Kiwis on course for a historic series triumph.

 

Breaking into club football with Ponsonby Ponies in 1947, White kicked six goals in Auckland’s 30-9 defeat of the returning 1947-48 Kiwis tourists and slotted five for Auckland Colts in a loss to the visiting Australian side – the first of several individual battles with legendary South Sydney fullback Clive Churchill.

 

The 23-year-old received his maiden Kiwis call-up for the 1950 series against Great Britain. He marked his Test debut in Christchurch by kicking a penalty goal from near halfway in the opening stages and his boot proved the difference in a 16-10 victory, finishing with five goals.

 

White’s attributes as a safe custodian and a fine attacking fullback tended to be overshadowed by his goalkicking prowess in an era where possessing a long-range sharpshooter was a huge asset. He kicked another five goals in New Zealand’s 16-15 eclipse of the famed 1951 French tourists at a muddy Carlaw Park.

 

The 1951-52 Kiwis went winless in five Tests in Britain and France, but White smashed the New Zealand record for most points on a tour with 212 (four tries, 100 goals), displaying remarkable durability to turn out 33 times in a mammoth 40-match schedule.

 

White helped Ponsonby secure all four major Auckland Rugby League trophies – the Fox Memorial Shield, Roope Rooster, Stormont Shield and Rukutai Shield – in 1952 and was a key figure in a halcyon period for the Kiwis.

 

Following his 11-goal spree in the second Test at Lang Park in 1952, he booted another five goals in a series-winning 19-9 win over Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground. White’s series tally of 18 goals equalled another world record, while he also became the first New Zealander to top a century of points on a tour of Australia, a trip that included another 11-goal haul against Northern Division.

 

In 1953, White was at the forefront of a home success against Australia with his first Test try and four goals in the 25-5 series-opening rout and a clutch three-goal display as New Zealand clinched the rubber 12-11 in the second clash. White dotted down for his only other Test try in the 18-16 loss in the third clash.

 

White’s seven goals underpinned New Zealand’s 20-14 second-Test victory over the formidable 1954 Great Britain tourists in a 2-1 series loss, but the last match of the tour would have a fateful impact on the last-liner’s career.

 

Auckland’s 5-4 win over the Lions was marred by brawling and violent incidents, the most of infamous of which saw White illegally tackled by rugged British centre Dougie Greenall. The terrible impact of the controversial challenge resulted in White having his spleen removed during a five-week hospital stay.

 

White was ruled out of the inaugural World Cup in France later that year and would not return to international football until 1956, coming back for the Kiwis’ tour of Australia.

 

The 29-year-old’s swansong for New Zealand featured a 3-0 series loss to the green-and-golds but nevertheless included several highlights: seven goals in a tour-opening win over NSW, eight goals in a big victory over Queensland and nine goals against Central Queensland.

 

Fittingly, White landed four goals in his last Test, a 31-14 defeat at the SCG.

 

Settling into retirement, White took over as Auckland coach in 1958. He accepted the New Zealand coaching reins for the 1961 home series against Australia – which finished one-all in his only Kiwis assignment – while his Auckland side upset the tourists 13-8.

 

White’s New Zealand record tally of 132 Test points (two tries, 63 goals) was broken by Matthew Ridge during the 1990s and was subsequently passed by Stacey Jones and Shaun Johnson, but his 467 points (seven tries, 223 goals) in 48 matches for the Kiwis is a mark destined to stand forever. He also continues to hold long-standing records for most points for Ponsonby (794) and Auckland (467).

 

In 1990, White was one of only two sportspeople primarily known for rugby league (with Ces Mountford) among the inaugural inductees to the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame, while he was one of the initial batch of 13 NZRL Legends of League in 1995.

 

Centenary celebrations brought further accolades for the universally admired White: he earned the fullback nod in the New Zealand Team of the Century line-up in 2007 and was among the first six Auckland Immortals named in 2008.

 

New Zealand Rugby League offers its sincere condolences to the Ponsonby club, Auckland Rugby League and Des White’s family and friends.

 

13 December 2023

 

After outstanding international seasons, James Fisher-Harris [Kiwi #801] and Georgia Hale [Kiwi Fern #122] have both been awarded the Player of the Year for 2023. The Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year award goes to Matthew Timoko and Annessa Biddle, while Rocco Berry has been named the Kiwis A Player of the Year.

 

James Fisher-Harris [Kiwi #801] solidified his position as one of the top front rowers in the game in 2023. Fisher-Harris led the Kiwis to a historic thrashing of the Kangaroos, producing 142 run metres in the team’s effort to win the Pacific Championships. Thanks to his outstanding performances in the Pacific Championships, the Kohukohu star also won the prestigious 2023 IRL Golden Boot award.

 

In her ninth season of International Rugby League, Georgia Hale [Kiwi Fern #122] takes home Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year as well as the 2023 IRL Golden Boot award. Hale’s captaincy heroics helped the Kiwi Ferns break a seven-year drought with their recent win against the Jillaroos. Hale topped the tackle count, producing 130 tackles and 388 run metres over the international season.

 

NZRL GM of Football & High-Performance Motu Tony says, “The impact both Georgia and Fish have not only on their teammates but their communities especially here in New Zealand is inspiring.

 

To have a year where our two New Zealand captains not only led their teams to historic victories over Australia but also both took home their respective Golden Boots is something special.

 

Winning the Golden Boot awards is a testament to their work ethic, dedication to the jersey and ability to lead from the front.”

 

Matthew Timoko had an outstanding international debut, with the 23-year-old producing class performances across all three matches. The Ellerslie Eagles junior recorded one try, 416 run metres, and 14 tackle breaks throughout the Pacific Championships campaign.

 

Annessa Biddle takes home Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year after exploding onto the international scene. Biddle displayed her dominant ball-running ability and versatility, initially starting on the wing then moving into second row for the final two matches. The Otara native was instrumental in the victory against Tonga’s women, producing one try, 135 run metres, and 24 tackles.

 

Rocco Berry is the Kiwis A Player of the Year after a stellar test match against the Tonga A men. Berry produced a try-saving tackle and a spectacular try assist using great footwork and an even better flick offload. His feats ignited a late-game surge which saw the Kiwis A side come from behind to claim victory 36-26.

 

NZRL GM of Football & High-Performance Motu Tony says, “In a year where we saw 16 debuts in the Black & White jersey plus the return of the Kiwis A, it was no easy feat for our coaches to choose only one stand-out rookie.

 

The depth of this next generation of Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns is exciting and positions us well for the 2026 Rugby League World Cup. I look forward to seeing these young players continue to develop and shine on the international stage

 

 

2023 New Zealand Rugby League Award Winners

 

New Zealand Kiwis Player of the Year – James Fisher-Harris

New Zealand Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year – Georgia Hale

New Zealand Kiwis Rookie of the Year – Matthew Timoko

New Zealand Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year – Annessa Biddle

New Zealand Kiwis A Player of the Year – Rocco Berry

 

James Fisher-HarrisGeorgia Hale and Jérémy Bourson have each created Golden Boot history after being chosen as the respective 2023 men’s, women’s and wheelchair winners.

Fisher-Harris is the first prop to win the prestigious award since its inception in 1984 and will add the IRL Golden Boot to the Pacific Cup medal he received after leading the Kiwis to a record 30-0 defeat of the Kangaroos and his third consecutive NRL premiership ring with Penrith.

The New Zealand captain was presented with the 2023 IRL Golden Boot by 2000 winner and two-times World Cup-winning Kangaroos captain Brad Fittler at an event in Sydney on Wednesday.

Hale, who is the first forward to win the women’s award, and Bourson – France’s first Golden Boot recipient in any discipline of the game – are both based in the Northern Hemisphere and were unable to attend.

The IRL Golden Boot is awarded each year to the best player in sanctioned rugby league international matches.

Fisher-Harris was chosen by a panel comprising of Golden Cap recipients Adam BlairJames GrahamDarren LockyerAdrian Morley and Ruben Wiki, who are among just nine players to have played more than 50 internationals for their country.

Previous Golden Boot winners Stacey JonesShaun JohnsonRoger Tuivasa-Sheck and Joey Manu were among the many current and former Kiwis to pay tribute to Fisher-Harris.

Michael Maguire, who had charge of Fisher-Harris in all but one of his 15 appearances for New Zealand, including the Pacific Championships triumph, and members of his coaching staff, also sent messages of congratulations.

“I can’t think of a better bloke to take out such a prestigious award,” Maguire said. “It’s thoroughly deserved.

“In our time together, over the years, I have watched you grow from that young player to winning grand finals and now leading the Kiwis to an emphatic win against Australia, and creating a bit of history.

“You led right from the front, right from the time you walked into the month of the campaign that we had together. You’re an absolute champion and with the way you go about things, and there’s a lot of reasons why you’re such a success in rugby league.

“What an award to have. You have now created a little piece of history for yourself in the international space, along with such a great win.”

Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry was emotional as he told Hale she had been chosen by a panel of Jillaroos great Karyn Murphy, Kiwi dual code superstar Honey Hireme-Smiler and England 2017 World Cup prop turned rugby league commentator Danika Priim.“I don’t think this award could go to a player more deserving than Georgia,” Henry said. “She is a professional on and off the field.

“Georgia does the things that other players don’t want to do on the footy field; the things that people don’t get rewarded for or recognised for.

“We know that she is a really hard worker but the biggest growth in her game has been her football IQ and that has made her the player she is today.

“This is a reward for everything you have done for rugby league, for yourself, for your family and for us in the Kiwi Ferns environment. You are a massive role model for all the young girls playing rugby league in New Zealand and Australia.”

Hale, who helped the Kiwi Ferns to a gritty 12-6 defeat of the Jillaroos, edged team-mate Mele Hufanga and rival fullbacks Tamika Upton and Apii Nicholls to become the second successive New Zealander to win the Golden Boot after Raecene McGregor.

The award caps a year in which the 28-year-old lock played both in the Women’s Super League and NRLW, helping the Gold Coast Titans to the club’s inaugural grand final and the Kiwi Ferns to their first win against the Jillaroos since 2016.

“I play rugby league to win premierships or championships or World Cups, so to receive such an accolade like this is a very proud moment and I think of how proud I am to be a Kiwi Fern and to represent the Ferns before and the Ferns to come,” Hale said.

“It’s been a special year. I started my journey in 2023 here at Leeds Rhinos, which I was so fortunate to be a part of, and then was really excited to be able to return home to the Gold Coast and have such a proud season with our Titans girls.

“Then to finish off my season representing the Kiwi Ferns, breaking a seven-year drought back with the girls from back at home, just really put the icing on the cake but I don’t think you can ever be satisfied with what you have done.

“I am just really excited to see what the next steps are for me personally in my career and also with all the teams that I am so fortunate to take the field with.

Fisher-Harris continued the Kiwis’ recent stranglehold on the Golden Boot after Tuivasa-Sheck won in 2019 and Manu received the award last year, with the trophy not awarded in 2020 and 2021 due to the impact of Covid.

He won the award from Kiwis team-mate Joseph Tapine, Kangaroos prop Payne Haas and English halfback Harry Smith, who were shortlisted by the panel from 20 international players nominated by members of the media in Australia, England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

The wheelchair 2023 IRL Golden Boot was chosen by Malcolm Kielty (England) and Robert Fassolette (France), the two key figures in establishing the sport, along with another driving force in the game’s development in Martin Coyd, and long serving administrator Niel Wood.

Bourson and England’s Lewis King were shortlisted after two recent internationals between last year’s World Cup finalists, with France triumphing in Leeds and England winning in Marseilles.

The Frenchman received the award in Perpignan from last year’s winner, England’s Seb Bechara, whom he plays alongside at Catalans Dragons.

“It’s a great honour for me,” Bourson said. “There have only been three winners and I am the first Frenchman. It’s important to remember. A lot of people will really like seeing that and I’ll never forget this achievement.

“The next step for the French team is the World Cup, which we have already started preparing for. My singular aim is, very simply, to win the World Cup and the Golden Boot in 2026.”

IRL Chair Troy Grant congratulated Fisher-Harris, Hale and Bourson on their achievements as international player of the year.

“You only need to hear from their coaches and team-mates to know that James, Georgia and Jérémy are deserved winners of the Golden Boot and worthy of having their names alongside some of the greats of our game,” he said.

“Each played a significant role in the achievements of their team at international level this season, in which all three of last year’s World Cup winners were beaten, and they have now created personal history.

“On behalf of the IRL Board, I would like to congratulate the winners, all of the players who were nominated and the members of the judging panels whose status and achievements in the game ensure the Golden Boot remains one of the most prestigious awards in Rugby League.”  

 

IRL Golden Boot Roll of Honour

Men  

1984 Wally Lewis (Australia)1985 Brett Kenny (Australia)1986 Garry Jack (Australia)1987 Hugh McGahan (New Zealand)and Peter Sterling (Australia)1988 Ellery Hanley (England)1989 Mal Meninga (Australia)1990 Garry Schofield (England)1992 Garry Schofield (England)

1991-98 No award given1999 Andrew Johns (Australia)2000 Brad Fittler (Australia)2001 Andrew Johns (Australia)2002 Stacey Jones (New Zealand)2003 Darren Lockyer (Australia)2004 Andrew Farrell (England)2005 Anthony Minichiello (Australia)2006 Darren Lockyer (Australia)2007 Cameron Smith (Australia)2008 Billy Slater (Australia)2009 Greg Inglis (Australia)2010 Benji Marshall (New Zealand)2011 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)2012 Kevin Sinfield (England)2013 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)2014 Shaun Johnson (New Zealand)2015 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)2016 Cooper Cronk (Australia)2017 Cameron Smith (Australia)2018 Tommy Makinson (England)2019 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand)2020 No award given2021 No award given2022 Joey Manu (New Zealand)2023 James Fisher-Harris (New Zealand)

     WOMEN  

2018 Isabelle Kelly (Australia)2019 Jess Sergis (Australia)2020 No award given2021 No award given2022 Raecene McGregor (New Zealand)2023 Georgia Hale (New Zealand)

WHEELCHAIR  

2019 Jack Brown (England)2020 No award given2021 No award given2022 Sebastien Bechara (England)2023 Jérémy Bourson (France)

28 November 2023

Kiwis captain James Fisher-Harris, lock Joseph Tapine and Kangaroos prop Payne Haas are in line to become the first running forward to win the IRL Golden Boot in 20 years after being selected on a short list of four nominees for the 2023 award.

Fisher-Harris and Tapine, who helped New Zealand to a record 30-0 defeat of Australia in the inaugural Pacific Cup final, are vying with Haas and England centre Harry Smith for the 2023 IRL Golden Boot as international player of the year.

Kiwi Ferns trio Georgia Hale, Mele Hufanga, Apii Nicholls and Jillaroos fullback Tamika Upton have been shortlisted for the women’s Golden Boot, while Frenchman Jeremy Bourson and England’s Lewis King are the contenders for the wheelchair Golden Boot.

The last running forward to win the Golden Boot was former Great Britain captain Andy Farrell, who played mostly second-row or lock in his 34 international appearances before switching to rugby union, where he now coaches Ireland.

Former Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith, who is one of nine players to have played more than 50 internationals, won the Golden Boot in 2007 and 2017 but he was a dummy half and not a running forward like Fisher-Harris, Tapine and Haas.

The only other forward to have won the Golden Boot was former New Zealand captain Hugh McGahan in 1987, while England’s Kevin Sinfield played halfback when he received the award in 2012.

The men’s 2023 IRL Golden Boot short list of Fisher-Harris, Haas, Smith and Tapine was chosen by a panel comprising of Golden Cap recipients Adam Blair, James Graham, Darren Lockyer, Adrian Morley and Ruben Wiki, who have each played more than 50 internationals.

The quartet were selected from a long list of 20 players nominated by members of the media in Australia, England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, after the conclusion of the Pacific Championships and the historic England-Tonga series.

The women’s IRL Golden Boot winner short list was chosen from 14 nominees after the Pacific Championships, which featured New Zealand’s first triumph over the Jillaroos since 2016, and internationals in Europe.

Players from England, France, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Cook Islands were also nominated, before the New Zealand trio of Hale, Hufanga and Nicholls and Australia’s Upton were shortlisted.

The women’s 2023 IRL Golden Boot winner will be selected by Australian Jillaroos great Karyn Murphy, former New Zealand dual code superstar Honey Hireme-Smiler and England 2017 World Cup prop turned rugby league commentator Danika Priim.

The judges of the 2023 Wheelchair IRL Golden Boot are Malcolm Kielty (England) and Robert Fassolette (France), the two key figures in establishing the sport, along with another driving force in the game’s development in Martin Coyd, and long serving administrator Niel Wood, who has been a member of the IRL’s Wheelchair Rugby League advisory committee.

Bourson and King were shortlisted for the Golden Boot after last weekend’s international between World Cup finalists England and France in Marseilles, in which the visitors avenged their defeat in Leeds three weeks earlier.

France’s Lionel Alazard and the England trio of Sebastien Bechara, who is the current Golden Boot holder, Jack Brown and Nathan Collins were also considered.

IRL Chair Troy Grant congratulated the 10 players shortlisted for the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Golden Boot awards.

“The IRL Golden Boot is one of the game’s most prestigious awards and any of the nominated players would be a worthy winner,” Mr Grant said.

“In recent weeks we have seen all three of last year’s World Cup winners – the Kangaroos, Jillaroos and England Wheelchair team – beaten, and this shows how closely contested the international game is.

“That is reflected in the nominations for the 2023 Golden Boot and there is no clear-cut candidate for any of the awards.

“On behalf of the IRL, I would like to thank the panels of former greats of our game, and those who have made a significant contribution to the development of Wheelchair Rugby League, for their involvement in helping to choose the 2023 international player of the year.”

The IRL Golden Boot is awarded to the best player in sanctioned rugby league international matches each year.

The 2022 IRL Golden Boot winners were New Zealand’s Joey Manu and Raecene McGregor, and England Wheelchair star Sebastien Bechara.

The winners of the 2023 IRL Golden Boot awards will be announced in early December.

 

IRL Golden Boot Short Lists

Men

James Fisher-Harris (New Zealand)
Payne Haas (Australia)
Harry Smith (England)
Joseph Tapine (New Zealand)

Women

Georgia Hale (New Zealand)
Mele Hufanga (New Zealand)
Apii Nicholls (New Zealand)
Tamika Upton (Australia)

Wheelchair

Jeremy Bourson (France)
Lewis King (England)

Previous IRL Golden Boot Winners

Men  

1984 Wally Lewis (Australia)
1985 Brett Kenny (Australia)
1986 Garry Jack (Australia)
1987 Hugh McGahan (New Zealand)
and Peter Sterling (Australia)
1988 Ellery Hanley (England)
1989 Mal Meninga (Australia)
1990 Garry Schofield (England)
1992 Garry Schofield (England)

1991-98 No award given
1999 Andrew Johns (Australia)
2000 Brad Fittler (Australia)
2001 Andrew Johns (Australia)
2002 Stacey Jones (New Zealand)
2003 Darren Lockyer (Australia)
2004 Andrew Farrell (England)
2005 Anthony Minichiello (Australia)
2006 Darren Lockyer (Australia)
2007 Cameron Smith (Australia)
2008 Billy Slater (Australia)
2009 Greg Inglis (Australia)
2010 Benji Marshall (New Zealand)
2011 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2012 Kevin Sinfield (England)
2013 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2014 Shaun Johnson (New Zealand)
2015 Johnathan Thurston (Australia)
2016 Cooper Cronk (Australia)
2017 Cameron Smith (Australia)
2018 Tommy Makinson (England)
2019 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Joey Manu (New Zealand)

WOMEN  

2018 Isabelle Kelly (Australia)
2019 Jess Sergis (Australia)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Raecene McGregor (New Zealand)

WHEELCHAIR  

2019 Jack Brown (England)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Sebastien Bechara (England)

 

A panel comprising some of the most accomplished players in international rugby league will select the men’s and women’s 2023 IRL Golden Boot winners after nominations were finalised following the recent Pacific Championships and historic England-Tonga series.

Golden Cap recipients Darren Lockyer (Australia), Adrian Morley (England), Ruben Wiki (New Zealand), James Graham (England) and Adam Blair (New Zealand), who are among just nine players to have played 50 internationals for their country, will choose the men’s IRL Golden Boot winner.

The women’s IRL Golden Boot winner will be decided by Australian Jillaroos great Karyn Murphy, former New Zealand dual code superstar Honey Hireme-Smiler and England 2017 World Cup prop turned rugby league commentator Danika Priim.

The judges of the 2023 Wheelchair IRL Golden Boot include Malcolm Kielty (England) and Robert Fassolette (France), the two key figures in establishing the sport, along with another driving force in the game’s development in Martin Coyd, and long serving administrator Niel Wood, who has been a member of the IRL’s Wheelchair Rugby League advisory committee.

IRL Chair Troy Grant said: “The IRL Golden Boot is one of the oldest and most highly regarded awards in rugby league, so it is fitting that some of the giants of the international game decide the winners.

“Having former players of such standing choose the men’s and women’s international player of the year adds to the prestige of the IRL Golden Boot and we thank them for their support of the award.

“There could also be no-one better qualified to determine the winner of the Wheelchair Golden Boot than those who pioneered the sport and the IRL is grateful for their involvement.”

New Zealand players dominate the long lists of men’s and women’s candidates, chosen by members of the media in Australia, England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, after the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns triumphed against Australia in the Pacific Championships.

Kiwis stars Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Jahrome Hughes, James Fisher-Harris, Joey Tapine and Ronaldo Mulitalo headline the contenders for the men’s Golden Boot, while 2022 winner Raecene McGregor and Kiwis Ferns team-mates Apii Nicholls, Mele Hufanga and Georgia Hale are candidates for the women’s award.

England’s Harry Smith, Mikey Lewis, John Bateman and Matty Ashton have also been nominated after the recent 3-0 series defeat of Tonga, alongside the Kangaroos quartet of Cameron Murray, Harry Grant, Payne Haas and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.

Other players on the long list include Papua New Guinea pair Lachlan Lam and Edwin Ipape, Fiji prop Tui Kamikamica and fullback Jahream Bula, Samoa fullback Su’a Faalogo, Cook Islands playmaker Esan Marsters and Tonga prop Addin Fonua-Blake.

The women’s Golden Boot is just as keenly contested, with Jillaroos stars Tamika Upton and Jess Sergis also vying with England prop Amy Hardcastle and five-eighth Georgia Roche.

Others in contention include France’s Elisa Akpa and Lauréane Biville, Samoa prop Annetta-Claudia Nu’uausala, Tonga centre Tiana Penitani, Papua New Guinea centre Belinda Gwasamun and Cook Islands front-rower Toru Arakua.

The IRL Golden Boot is awarded to the best player in sanctioned rugby league international matches each year.

The 2022 IRL Golden Boot winners were New Zealand’s Joey Manu and Raecene McGregor, and England Wheelchair star Sebastien Bechara.

Short lists for the men’s, women’s and wheelchair 2023 IRL Golden Boot awards will be announced after the second wheelchair international between last year’s World Cup winners England and runners-up France in Carcassonne on November 25.

France triumphed 43-34 in Leeds on November 5 in the first encounter between the two nations since the epic World Cup final.

The winners of the 2023 IRL Golden Boot awards will be announced in early December.

IRL Chair Troy Grant said: “There has been more international rugby league played in recent months than any other period in recent memory outside of a World Cup year and players have again demonstrated their passion for representing their countries of birth or heritage.

“It is a sign of how competitive the game is at international level that the three World Cup champions – the Kangaroos, Jillaroos and England Wheelchair – were all recently beaten in gripping contests that showcased rugby league at its best.”

Nominated Kiwis

James Fisher-Harris

Jahrome Hughes

Ronaldo Mulitalo

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad

Joseph Tapine

Nominated Kiwi Ferns

Georgia Hale

Mele Hufanga

Raecene McGregor

Apii Nicholls

As seen on nzherald.co.nz

As Kiwis fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad ran on to the field on Saturday against the Kangaroos in Hamilton, he repeated a simple mantra.

It had been on his mind all week, as he promised himself – and his teammates – that he would deliver.

I can, he said quietly. And I will.

But this was more than just motivation, as he was battling the odds.

The 28-year-old produced a man of the match performance, in easily the best game of his international career. And he did it despite a broken rib, which meant he couldn’t train fully over the past two weeks, after the bone was smashed up against Samoa at Eden Park.

“It was really painful in the Samoan game,” Nicoll-Klokstad told the Herald. “It was a bit sore last week. I had to get two separate painkilling jabs and have a huge pad. But it came back to that mentality thing; I missed the mark mentally last week.”

There were many heroes on Saturday as the Kiwis completed a famous victory over the Kangaroos – just their second in 10 clashes since 2016 – with their 30-0 triumph. But Nicoll-Klokstad typified the desire, determination and camaraderie in this squad.

It was only his fourth test at fullback but the kind of performance that will be long remembered, especially given the physical baggage. Three weeks ago, against Samoa, he felt an instant rush of pain as he braced for contact in a tackle. It was a good, legal hit but something wasn’t quite right and it was more than a knock.

”It happened early in the game, 15 minutes in,” said Nicoll-Klokstad. “I ran off the field at halftime to get it jabbed and that’s when they found out.”

It made the following week a challenge, as the Kiwis prepared to play Australia in Melbourne.

”That was the hardest,” said Nicoll-Klokstad. “I had to get my head around moving with it and knowing that, yep, it was broken and I’ve just got to get through the session.”

He didn’t do any contact work but still couldn’t avoid reminders.

”I couldn’t even sneeze, that was a bit painful,” he said, also feeling while it sleeping. It was a compromised preparation and he was far from his best in Melbourne, as the Kiwis were outpointed 36-18.

Nicoll-Klokstad was pinned in his own territory for much of the match, unable to impose himself on the game.

”It was a good learning curve for me personally, I felt I was a little bit too much in my head and missed my assignment,” he said. “I didn’t play the standard I wanted to play and it came back to a mentality thing.”

”I was really looking forward to this week because I knew I could be a lot better, getting back to what I know how to do. It was simple; I just had a phrase in my head the whole week. It was – ‘I can and I will’.”

Before Saturday’s match he had injections in two separate areas to numb the area, popped a couple of painkillers and strapped a large pad over his left chest.

”Then I was good to go.”

And what a display. He made 277 metres from 30 carries, with six tackle busts. He created two line breaks, set up a try with a reflex pass and organised his defence superbly.

”I wanted to make amends,” said Nicoll-Klokstad. “Be better, be my best. Hopefully the boys are proud of the effort.”

With jubilant fans staying on a long time around the final whistle, the magnitude of the victory began to sink in.

”I’m honoured, proud, grateful – so many emotions and feelings,” said Nicoll-Klokstad. “First win against Australia and what a way to do it too.”

His proud coach Maguire summed up the effort.

“He actually wasn’t meant to play,” admitted Maguire. “It just goes to show what players will do when they are playing for their country. He wasn’t quite sure after the Samoan game if he would keep going but he didn’t want to leave [camp] and when you have got things like that going on within your group and then good leadership, you come up with some special performances.”

Read more on nzherald.co.nz

As seen on nzherald.co.nz

Kiwis’ winger Ronaldo Mulitalo has found personal redemption.

Mulitalo capped off a difficult three weeks – revealing he had copped plenty of online abuse and vitriol during the Pacific Championships campaign – with a brilliant display in the Kiwis’ 30-0 win over Australia in Hamilton.

The negativity is nothing new for Mulitalo. For more than two years he has faced questions, jibes and doubts over his commitment to his country of birth, after the controversial State of Origin eligibility drama in 2021.

Mulitalo was born and raised in Auckland, playing for the Ellerslie Eagles, among other clubs, before his family emigrated to Brisbane when he was 13. He represented Queensland at the Under-18 and Under-20 levels and was called up for Origin in 2021, before being dramatically scratched 24 hours before kickoff, as a check of the revised rules found he was ineligible, due to his arrival in the Sunshine State after his 13th birthday.

That caused a media storm at the time – with many questioning the inept administration that led to the blunder – while Mulitalo was devastated.

“Heartbroken and lost for words,” he wrote on social media. “All I wanted to do was don this Maroon jersey and represent this great state.

That led to questions, when he was selected for New Zealand last year, that it was only his fallback option.

But there can’t be any doubts about his commitment now. He was a strong performer at last year’s World Cup, then had his finest match in the black and white V last Saturday, with numerous telling interventions in the stunning victory, also scoring his eighth try in nine tests.

“One of the things that tested me was people questioning my pride in New Zealand and my jersey,” said Mulitalo. “But when I set my mind to something and it means something to me, I go balls-out for it and it definitely feels like that, showing my pride in this jersey and what it means to me. I’m not just here because I’m here, I’m here to bring my game and put some pride in the jersey.

Mulitalo said he had put the “whole saga” of the Queensland episode behind him – ”I’ve moved on with my life” – even if a lot of other people haven’t.

“The whole week I have been getting abused, the whole campaign, from certain people for different things,” the 23-year-old said. “I’ve just been getting hammered, not only online. My family sees stuff like that and I just really wanted to come out with a statement. I know that this game meant so much to New Zealand in general and the game of rugby league in New Zealand. Hopefully there [were] some kids in the crowd or watching on television that saw how proud they could be of New Zealand and be in this jersey one day.”

Mulitalo was electric, particularly in the first half. Two long-range line breaks sparked the Kiwis – and the crowd – as did his celebrations after the first try, his eighth in nine tests. He also soared, AFL-style, to claim a defensive goal-line drop-out – which defused pressure at a crucial stage – and produced one of the hits of the season on Valentine Holmes, flattening the Kangaroos winger.

“I don’t even remember the hit – I just got up,” said Mulitalo. “I don’t normally tackle so it was unfamiliar waters that I was in. I got up, [carried] on like a goose and hopefully [gave] the boys a bit of a lift.”

Though the Kiwis won’t reassemble until next October – due to the NRL’s unfortunate scheduling – the memory of what unfolded last Saturday will last a long time.

“I’m super proud of the whole group,” said Mulitalo. “How we have pulled ourselves together, representing our country like that means the world to us.”

“Whether we made history, nothing mattered more than a win for us and putting pride back in the jersey and making New Zealand so proud of us. Whether we won by one point or 30 points it doesn’t matter, a win was the main thing.”

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As seen on NRL.com

The New Zealand Kiwis have taken out the inaugural Pacific Cup final after keeping the Kangaroos scoreless 30-0 to orchestrate an international upset in Hamilton on Saturday.

A 12-0 scoreline had the New Zealand faithful daring to dream at halftime and the fairytale final continued as the Kiwis ran in another 18 unanswered points to hand the Kangaroos for the first time since 2018.

Seven days after going down to their Tasman rivals 36-18 in Melbourne, Michael Maguire’s side were all class with halves Jahrome Hughes and Dylan Brown steering the ship and wingers Ronaldo Mulitalo and Jamayne Isaako dazzling on the edges.

Held scoreless for the first time since their 2005 Tri-Nations final defeat to New Zealand, the Kangaroos costs themselves any chance to break down the Kiwis’ early momentum with 50 missed tackles and 11 errors leading to their heaviest-ever international defeat.

After several Kangaroos errors gifted his side early possession, winger Mulitalo started and finished it for the Kiwis opening try, making a long-range break before finishing a left side sweep later in the set. Isaako’s conversion made it 6-0 after 16 minutes.

The Kangaroos looked to strike back in the 25th minute when Daly Cherry-Evans looped a long ball to the right but Mulitalo produced an incredible shot to deny Valentine Holmes an opportunity to cross the line.

The Kiwis continued with their early momentum and were rewarded in the 35th minute, with their star-studded spine linking up to set up an airborne Isaako on the right and extend their lead 12-0 at the break.

Some early mistakes in the second half heaped more pressure on the Kangaroos and the Kiwi wingers pounced again with a Hughes cut out pass opening the door for Isaako to bag a double after another aerial finish in the corner.

New Zealand were on their way to a Pacific Championship trophy with Brown’s quick hands putting Timoko in space to score his first international try.

With eight minutes remaining New Zealand were able to put the game away with Griffin Neame tearing through the Kangaroos line to score under the posts and put the finishing touches on their Pacific Cup victory.

Match Snapshot

  • Kangaroos forward Cameron Murray was ruled out of the match on game day with Rueben Cotter starting in the backrow and Nicho Hynes joining the bench.
  • In a dominant first half showing the Kiwis enjoyed 59 per cent of possession to keep the Kangaroos scoreless at half time for the first time since 2005.
  • Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad had 277 running metres and six tackle breaks to go in a player of the match performance.
  • The Kangaroos missed 38 tackles in the first half, 21 more than the Kiwis (17).
  • Australia recorded their biggest Test losing margin after going down to New Zealand by 24 points in 1952 and 2005.
  • Last time Kiwis beat Kangaroos was in 2018.
  • New Zealand had lost seven of their past eight Tests against Australia.

Play of the Game

With the Kiwis boasting a 6-0 lead, the Kangaroos looked to strike back early but winger Ronaldo Mulitalo produced a monster shot to deny Valentine Holmes an early opportunity on the line in a crucial momentum shifter for New Zealand.

As seen on nrl.com

The Kiwis have the home-ground advantage while the Kangaroos have the momentum heading into Saturday’s Pacific Cup Final in Hamilton.

With Val Holmes contributing 16 points and Lindsay Collins grabbing the first try double of his career, the Kangaroos proved too strong for the Kiwis in a 36-18 triumph in Melbourne last weekend.

The Kangaroos have now won all 12 Test matches played in Australia since Mal Meninga took the helm but they will face a hostile reception from the fans at Waikato’s FMG Stadium and also from a fired up Kiwi forward pack seeking redemption.

Both sides are set to be at full strength for the decider and nothing will be left in the tank in the final match of another long and testing season for the game’s superstars.

The Kiwis have proven countless times during the past 20 years that lead-up form goes out the window when the silverware is on the line and the likes of James Fisher-Harris and Joe Tapine are sure to bring the heat to the early exchanges.

Team News

Kiwis: Coach Michael Maguire sticks with the same 17-man squad that went down to the Kangaroos in Melbourne with Joey Manu remaining in the centres and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad staying at fullback. Roosters youngster Naufahu Whyte is 18th Man once again.

Kangaroos: Props Payne Haas and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui return to the side after being rested last weekend so Jake Trbojevic and Tom Flegler make way. Liam Martin is also back in the starting side so Reuben Cotter reverts to the bench and last week’s debutant Nicho Hynes goes to 18th Man.

Stat Attack

  • This will be the first time since the Four Nations final in Wellington in 2014 that NZ has hosted a championship decider
  • This will be only the second time since 2014 that the Kiwis have played the Kangaroos in NZ
  • The last Trans-Tasman clash on New Zealand soil was the one-off Test at Go Media Stadium in 2018 when the Kiwis triumphed 26-24.
  • Both sides completed at 82 per cent in their clash in Melbourne last weekend. The Kangaroos completed 32 of 39 sets and the Kiwis completed 28 of 34.
  • Adam Blair and Ruben Wiki hold the record for most appearances for NZ against Australia with 24.

Read the full article on nrl.com

Auckland, New Zealand, October 31, 2023 – For the third week running the New Zealand Kiwis will have the same side when they face the Kangaroos in Saturday’s Pacific Championships final at FMG Stadium in Hamilton (5.00pm kick-off).

The competition decider pits the Trans-Tasman foes against each other on New Zealand soil for only the third time in 11 years.

The most recent was the one-off international at Go Media Stadium in Auckland in 2018 when the Kiwis stunned the Australians 26-24.

Five years on only centre Joseph Manu – who debuted that night – and captain James Fisher-Harris remain in the line-up playing this week.

In the only other Trans-Tasman battle in New Zealand since 2012, the Kiwis beat the Kangaroos 22-18 in the Four Nations final in Wellington in 2014.

The only survivor from the New Zealand side that night is the 33-year-old Kieran Foran who’s set for his 31st Test this week after making his debut as a 19-year-old in 2009.

The Kiwis go into Saturday’s final on the back of last Saturday’s 18-36 loss to Australia in Melbourne but are buoyed by having a rare opportunity to meet them at home.

“The players are excited about playing in such an important Test and doing so in front of a passionate home crowd,” said Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire.

“We’ve got great belief in our side and I’ve got a lot on confidence in where we’re going.

“We’ve had a good look at where we need to be better from last week and the boys will take those lessons into Saturday’s match in Hamilton.”

Jahrome Hughes and Dylan Brown are paired in the halves for the sixth consecutive Test while Penrith’s premiership-winning props James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota again lead the Kiwis’ charge in the middle of the park.

In the past 26 years, New Zealand and Australia have clashed only 15 times on this side of the Tasman with the Kiwis claiming six wins to Australia’s eight with one draw.

 

PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS FINAL

 

NZ KIWIS v KANGAROOS

FMG STADIUM, HAMILTON

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2023

 

 

NO. PLAYERS NAME HERITAGE NUMBER
1 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD #820
2 RONALDO MULITALO #824
3 MATTHEW TIMOKO #832
4 JOSEPH MANU #815
5 JAMAYNE ISAAKO #808
6 DYLAN BROWN #826
7 JAHROME HUGHES #819
8 JAMES FISHER-HARRIS (c) #801
9 KIERAN FORAN #757
10 MOSES LEOTA #827
11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I #817
12 BRITON NIKORA #818
13 JOSEPH TAPINE #800
14 FA’AMANU BROWN #835
15 NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA #804
16 GRIFFIN NEAME #834
17 LEO THOMPSON #833
18 NAUFAHU WHYTE
19 WIREMU GREIG
20 KEANO KINI

 

Auckland, New Zealand, October 30, 2023 – The Kiwis take rugby league back to New Zealand rugby union’s home ground Eden Park tomorrow to begin their build-up for Saturday’s Pacific Championships against the Australian Kangaroos at FMG Waikato Stadium in Hamilton (5.00pm kick-off).

It was at Eden Park that the Kiwis opened their campaign with a 50-0 win over Toa Samoa on an emotion-charged occasion on October 21.

The two finalists arrived in Auckland yesterday following the Kangaroos’ 36-18 win over the New Zealanders in Melbourne on Saturday night.

“We appreciate the opportunity to have the Kiwis training at Eden Park,” said New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters.

“It’s a big week for the game in New Zealand, the first time since the Four Nations final in Wellington in 2014 that we’ve had a championship decider played here.

“It’s also only the second time since then that the Kiwis have played the Kangaroos in New Zealand.”

The last Trans-Tasman clash on New Zealand soil was the one-off Test at Go Media Stadium in 2018 when the Kiwis triumphed 26-24.

After training in Auckland tomorrow, the Kiwis travel to Hamilton on Wednesday where they will mix with the public at a signing session at Centre Place in the central city scheduled for 3.00pm.

They have a field session on Thursday morning before winding up their on-field preparations at FMG Waikato Stadium on Friday.

 

Buy tickets from ticketek.co.nz

As seen on NRL.com

The Gallagher Kangaroos got the better of the Kiwis in a 36-18 win on Saturday night, setting the scene for an intriguing Pacific Championships final showdown between the two nations next week in Hamilton.

Australia never trailed in the contest and after an opening 21 minutes in which the match ebbed and flowed, they always enjoyed a lead on the scoreboard, with a double from front-rower Lindsay Collins and the accurate boot of returning winger Valentine Holmes doing much of the damage at AAMI Park.

While Australia were already 12-6 up when he entered the field in the 27th minute, Harry Grant was the man who kicked the Kangaroos up a notch when the game sat in the balance, while fellow Queenslander Patrick Carrigan was big off the bench too, carrying 16 times for 145 metres.

As good as their opponents were at times, the Kiwis had nobody but themselves to blame for falling behind early, with Jahrome Hughes kicking out on the full – after Jamayne Isaako had already booted the start of play dead on the fly – to gift possession for Holmes’ opener on nine minutes, which was his 20th try in as many Tests.

Hughes laid on a reply to Briton Nikora 10 minutes later, before Collins scored twice in the space of nine minutes, after following up keenly in attacking territory, to give the Kangaroos a handy 18-6 lead.

It would have stayed that way at the break but for Ronaldo Mulitalo soaring through the air to claim a high ball with a minute to go in the half, with that try reducing the Kiwis’ deficit to six once again.

Eleven minutes after the restart of play Panthers ace Dylan Edwards went over for his first try as a Kangaroo and with Holmes maintaining his perfect day with the boot Australia had some comfort on the scoreboard again.

The Kiwis then gave away an obstruction penalty while working the ball out of their own end, handing Holmes a simple two from the ensuing penalty which stretched the lead to 26-12.

A stinging carry from James Fisher-Harris presented Fa’amanu Brown with the chance to burrow over with 11 to play and the two-Test Kiwi made no mistake, reducing the gap to eight temporarily.

But they collapsed badly from there, leaking late tries to Ben Hunt and Cameron Murray which blew the final scoreline out ahead of next week’s return match in Hamilton.

Match Snapshot

  • The Kangaroos have now won seven of their past eight Tests against New Zealand.
  • Australia won despite having less possession (48 percent to 52 percent).
  • Captain James Tedesco had a game-high 190 metres from fullback, while winger Ronaldo Mulitalo led the way for the Kiwis with 139.
  • Nelson Asofa-Solomona went on report in the 53rd minute for a Dangerous Tackle.
  • Dylan Edwards further pushed his claims to be a first-choice winger for the final, with 14 runs for 121 metres, a try and two line breaks on the wing.
  • A head clash with 18 minutes to play between James Fisher-Harris and Joseph Tapine saw both players require treatment but remain on the field.
  • Cameron Munster left the field with eight minutes to play and didn’t return due to cramp.
  • Thomas Flegler and Nicho Hynes both made their Test debut in the win.

Play of the Game

As impressive as the pass was from Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to set it up, the real beauty in this one sits with hulking front-rower Lindsay Collins, who got over for the first of his two tries on the night. Having just entered the field from the bench, Collins followed up intelligently to be in the picture and went over for a memorable four-pointer.

What They Said

“I thought it was an excellent performance and the things we wanted to get through we did. Our second half was amazing, our completion rate was great, we controlled field position and we have got some quality players in our footy team that can take advantage of that. The beauty of our team is that they keep going… it’s fun to coach. The effort was really good not only tonight, but through the week. ” – Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga.

“There was a lot of good about it, but we will take a fair bit out of it for what we need to do this [coming] week and tidy up. The second half I felt we probably just weren’t where we needed to be. Australia spent a lot of time in our half and when you are having to defend like that it’s [using] energy. We put ourselves under a fair bit of pressure.” – Kiwis coach Michael Maguire. 

What’s Next

The two nations meet again on November 4 at FMG Stadium Waikato, with the stakes even higher as they play to become inaugural winners of the Pacific Championships. The Kangaroos are likely to have a couple of changes with rested players returning, while it remains to be seen if Kiwis coach Michael Maguire opts to name an unchanged 17 for the third week in a row.

As seen on nrl.com

The Kangaroos and Kiwis meet in a preview of the Pacific Championships final with both sides having already qualified for next week’s decider in Hamilton.

The last time the great Trans-Tasman rivals met was last year’s World Cup semi-final with the Kangaroos getting home 16-14 on the back of tries to Josh Addo-Carr, Val Holmes and Cam Murray.

Every contest between the Kangaroos and Kiwis offers the chance to make a statement and claim bragging rights so nothing will be left in the tank, particularly in the early exchanges when James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota lock horns with debutant Flegler and Cowboys hard nut Cotter.

Kiwis: An unchanged 17 from last week’s 50-0 hammering of Toa Samoa. After being a late addition to the starting side at hooker in week two, Kieran Foran will wear the No.9 jersey against Australia with Fa’amanu Brown reverting to the bench. Brown joins centre Matthew Timoko and fellow bench men Griffin Neame and Leo Thompson in making his second Test appearance for New Zealand. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Joey Manu are expected to again share time at fullback.

 

Kiwis v Kangaroos – Saturday 28th October 10:10pm AAMI Park Melbourne

Available to watch on Sky Sport

See full article on nrl.com

Auckland, New Zealand, October 24, 2023 – An unchanged squad has been named for the New Zealand Kiwis’ Pacific Championships contest against the Kangaroos at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Saturday night (8.10pm kick-off local time).

Kieran Foran is listed in the #9 jersey this week after being selected in the #14 shirt but starting at dummy half in the Kiwis’ commanding 50-0 victory over Toa Samoa at Eden Park last Saturday.

The 33-year-old 282-game NRL veteran is set for his 30th Test since his debut as a 19-year-old against England in the 2009 Four Nations in Huddersfield.

With frontline hookers unavailable, Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire called on halfback Foran to fill the void at dummy half.

He responded with a courageous display in an unbroken 58-minuter shift, finishing the encounter with 52 metres from eight runs and 31 tackles as he fronted up to the Samoans in the middle of the park.

“Kieran put his head in the middle against Samoa and did such a great job for the team,” said Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire.

“He’s a hugely passionate Kiwi who has been in this space for 14 years and he’d die for his teammates. He loves the jersey.”

The Kiwis’ win over Samoa followed Australia’s 38-12 victory over the beaten Rugby League World Cup finalist on October 14 ensuring the Trans-Tasman neighbours will meet in the final at FMG Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on November 4.

First they face off in just the fourth Test between the two countries in the Victorian capital.

The first was in 1991 when the New Zealanders famously stunned the Australians 24-8 at Olympic Park.

They met at Melbourne’s Telstra Dome in the 2006 Tri Nations, the Kiwis leading 15-14 before Australia scored late to win 20-15.

Their last meeting was at AAMI Park in the 2006 Anzac Test when the Kangaroos held on for 12-8 triumph.

 

NZ KIWIS v KANGAROOS

AAMI PARK, MELBOURNE

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2023

 

 

NO. PLAYERS NAME HERITAGE NUMBER
1 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD #820
2 RONALDO MULITALO #824
3 MATTHEW TIMOKO #832
4 JOSEPH MANU #815
5 JAMAYNE ISAAKO #808
6 DYLAN BROWN #826
7 JAHROME HUGHES #819
8 JAMES FISHER-HARRIS (C) #801
9 KIERAN FORAN #757
10 MOSES LEOTA #827
11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I #817
12 BRITON NIKORA #818
13 JOSEPH TAPINE #800
14 FA’AMANU BROWN #835
15 NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA #804
16 GRIFFIN NEAME #834
17 LEO THOMPSON #833
18 NAUFAHU WHYTE Debutant
19 DANNY LEVI #806
20 WIREMU GREIG Debutant
21 KEANO KINI Debutant

 

 

A double to Jamayne Isaako in first game for the Kiwis since 2019 has helped New Zealand to a dominant 50-0 win over Samoa in their Pacific Championships clash at Eden Park on Saturday.

Named the Ken Irvine Medallist following his 24 tries during the Telstra Premiership season, Isaako’s 25th and 26th tries of 2023 gave Michael Maguire’s side a commanding early lead that they wouldn’t look back from, running away with the contest to secure their first shut-out win on home soil in over two decades.

Playing their first game since a narrow defeat to Australia in last year’s World Cup semi final, New Zealand’s combination of power through the middle and quality work from their outside backs was simply irrepressible as Samoa struggled to generate sustained attacking pressure or go-forward.

Captain James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota and Joseph Tapine all starred early on for the Kiwis – along with a try-scoring Nelson Asofa-Solomona off the bench – with a blockbuster clash against the likes of Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Payne Haas on the cards next week when they face Australia in Melbourne.

Named at fullback ahead of Golden Boot winner Joseph Manu, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad made an impact early for the Kiwis with his clever cut-out sending Isaako over for the first points of the game after 13 minutes.

The 2023 Ken Irvine Medallist was streaking away down the sideline not long after following a mazy run from Matt Timoko, with his Canberra teammate in Tapine sending Jahrome Hughes over at the end of the set to extend the lead to 12-0.

New Zealand’s third try in 11 minutes threatened to open the floodgates, with Isaako the beneficiary again of some clever work in the build-up – wrestling his way past Storm young gun Sua Fa’alogo to push the lead out to 18-0, which is how it would remain at the interval despite a number of close calls for the Kiwis.

Asofa-Solomona would make it a perfect start to the second half for New Zealand when he crashed over from close range before Isaiah Papali’i made it 28-0 with half an hour still to play after racing through to collect a Hughes grubber to score.

Denied a try in the first half when his arm grazed the sideline as he put the ball down, Ronaldo Mulitalo would eventually have his four-pointer when he crossed in the 60th minute – doubling up late on for the first brace of his international career – with late tries to Briton Nikora and Fisher-Harris took the winning margin to 50.

An obstruction denied Tommy Talau Samoa’s best points-scoring opportunity of the game when Daejarn Asi was ruled to have taken an advantage behind the lead runner, with the Kiwis posting a shut-out win in an international fixture for the first time since a 48-0 win over France at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.

Match Snapshot

  • The Kiwis had a very late change to their team list as the game began with Fa’amanu Brown going to the bench and Kieran Foran starting at hooker.
  • With the first try of the game, Jamayne Isaako registered his 25th four-pointer for the season after scoring an NRL-leading 24 tries during the season, before doubling up with his 26th try to extend the Kiwis’ lead later on.
  • New Zealand came up with eight first half errors compared to Samoa’s two, but came up with five linebreaks from their 12 completed sets.
  • Isaako had a game high 178 metres and four tackle breaks in the first half, finishing the game with a personal tally of 22 points (two tries, seven goals).
  • Joseph Manu finished the game playing in jersey 20 after having his initial jersey (#4) heavily torn during a first half tackle.
  • Matt Timoko had an impressive 11 tackle breaks on his international debut.
  • New Zealand halves Jahrome Hughes and Dylan Brown finished with more than 250 running metres between them along with nine tackle breaks.
  • The 50-point victory is New Zealand’s biggest winning margin against Samoa.
Joey Manu doesn't let the lack of a playing jersey hold him back.
Joey Manu doesn’t let the lack of a playing jersey hold him back.©NRL Photos

Play of the Game

Having already crossed for the first try of the game, Jamayne Isaako showed a clean pair of heels to cap off a sweeping move to the right – racing clear of his opposite number in Murray Taulagi before spinning through several tackle attempts by Sua Fa’alogo to extend the Kiwis lead out to three converted tries.

New Zealand Kiwis A and Mate Ma’a Tonga A added another vibrant chapter to the nations’ burgeoning rugby league rivalry, getting the Eden Park triple-header underway with an 11-try thriller.

The Nathan Cayless-coached Kiwis A side ultimately prevailed 36-26 in a match characterised by big momentum swings. Kiwis A were ahead of the clock in storming to a 12-0 advantage, but Tonga A dominated the majority of the first half with the next three tries.

Three unanswered tries after the break put Kiwis A on course for victory, though a late flurry from Tonga A ensured the result was in the balance until the latter stages.

Following stirring pre-match Sipi Tau and haka challenges that would have done any Tonga or Kiwis side that has graced the international arena proud, the home side needed just two minutes to post the opening try after Tonga A’s kick-off sailed dead on the full.

Kiwis A halfback Zach Dockar-Clay and fullback Keano Kini combined superbly to give Melbourne Storm wing sensation Will Warbrick a path to the corner. Warriors livewire Taine Tuaupiki – lining up in the No.6 jersey – bounced the sideline conversion off the crossbar and over for an early 6-0 lead.

Tonga A successfully withstood another dangerous attacking raid, but an ill-conceived offload 10 metres out from their own line under strong defensive pressure gifted a try to Kiwis A second-rower Jack Howarth, a former Australian Schoolboys rep who made his NRL debut with the Storm in August.

After narrowly avoiding further scoreboard damage, Tonga A’s first genuine attacking set came unstuck when a deflected kick saw imposing Warriors NSW Cup tyro Jacob Laban charge 30 metres upfield for Kiwis A. Another chance slipped through the visitors’ fingers when fullback Delouise Hoeter couldn’t grasp a brilliant chip kick with no defenders in front of him.

The errors kept flowing from Kiwis A midway through the first half, but stout goal-line defence compensated for the drop-off in ball control.

The torrent of possession finally told in the 29th minute, however, when a barnstorming dummy-half run from ex-Warriors hooker Temple Koloamatangi-Kalepo opened Tonga A’s account. Naati Teaupa’s conversion pulled the scores back to 12-6.

Tonga A squared the ledger soon afterwards on the back of a magnificent charge from North Queensland-bound centre Viliami Vailea. Auckland-born 19-year-old second-rower Kulikefu Finefeuiaki – who played 12 NRL games for the Cowboys this season – busted the Kiwis A defence a couple of plays later and plunged over for his side’s second try.

The red wave continued to wash over a shellshocked Kiwis A outfit as Salesi Foketi won the race to a deft grubber two minutes out from the break, giving Tonga A a stunning 18-12 halftime lead.

Cayless’ charges returned from the sheds with far greater impetus. Kiwis A forced an early line dropout before Warriors top-grade regular Rocco Berry was held up over the line, but the centre’s incisive run and quick play-the-ball during the hosts’ next set laid the platform for an equalising try.

Hooker Danny Levi, a New Zealand Test rep at the 2017 World Cup and part of the current Kiwis squad, sliced up the Tongan defence and found quicksilver Titans teenager Kini backing up to finish off a 50-metre try under the posts.

Kiwis A regained the lead in the 53rd minute through recent Warriors NRL debutant Paul Roache, who took an offload from Dockar-Clay and made a beeline for the in-goal from 10 metres out.

Multiple errors from Tonga A proved costly as Kiwis A carved out a 12-point advantage at the hour mark.

Kini’s exquisite tip-on of a Tuaupiki pass from a scrum win gave fellow 2023 NRL newcomer, winger Ali Leiataua, a saloon passage to score out wide. Tuaupiki nailed another conversion from touch, his fifth of the afternoon.

Tonga A struck back with 14 minutes remaining – and in their first genuine visit to the opposition’s 20-metre zone in the second half. Classy backline hands opened up some space for big Burleigh Bears winger Tony Francis, who produced a sensational finish to slam the ball on the goal-line. But the missed conversion kept the scoreline at 30-22.

The result was effectively sealed soon after the restart, with Tonga A unable to clean up the kick-off. Great footwork and an even better flick offload from Berry sent Warbrick crashing in for his second try, while another superb sideline goal from Tuaupiki provided Kiwis A with a vital 14-point buffer.

A scoring chance fell by the wayside for Tonga A when Vailea’s long-range run from a Kiwis A mistake was foiled by a magnificent chase and cover tackle from former clubmate Berry. But with three minutes on the clock, excellent vision from Koloamatangi-Kalepo put left winger Sione Hopoate over untouched for the last try of a highly entertaining encounter.

New Zealand A captain Kalani Going, a revelation for the Warriors’ NSW Cup side and an NRL debutant in the final round of 2023, looked every bit the leader on both sides of the ball. Young Kiwis A forwards Howarth, Wiremu Greig, Pasami Saulo, and twin towers Benjamin Te Kura and Joe Chan grabbed their representative opportunity with both hands, while Dockar-Clay, Tuaupiki and Kini consistently provided offensive spark.

New Zealand Kiwis A 36 (Will Warbrick 2, Jack Howarth, Keano Kini, Paul Roache, Ali Leiataua tries; Taine Tuaupiki 6 goals) defeated Tonga A 26 (Temple Koloamatangi-Kalepo, Kulikefu Finefeuiaki, Salesi Foketi, Tony Francis tries; Naati Teaupa 3 goals) at Eden Park, Auckland on Saturday, October 21.

October 19, 2023

 

Kalani Going has become the second Northlander in a week to be named to lead a national team after being chosen as captain of the New Zealand Kiwis A side to face Mate Ma’a Tonga A at Eden Park on Saturday.

The 26-year-old follows in the footsteps of Kohukohu-raised James Fisher-Harris who was unveiled on Sunday as the Kiwis’ new captain for their Pacific Championships campaign starting against Toa Samoa on Saturday.

The proud Northlanders were both opponents and teammates in their younger years when Going was at Kamo High School and Fisher-Harris attended Whangarei Boys’ High School.

This week they have been brought together as brothers in arms alongside 35 other players in a camp that’s the first of its kind in New Zealand rugby league history.

For Going the appointment as captain adds another layer to an extraordinary past 12 months.

It has seen him go from mliking cows on the family farm to making his NRL debut with the One New Zealand Warriors, selection in the New Zealand Kiwis A squad and now the captain’s job as well.

A standout as his club’s captain in the New South Wales Cup, he finished the season by being named the One New Zealand Warriors’ NSW Cup Player of the Year and also made the NSW Cup Team of the Year.

Going will lead a Kiwis A side which boasts players with solid NRL experience and a host of the country’s most promising prospects.

He has been named at loose forward in a pack which includes Canberra’s former Kiwi hooker Danny Levi and Māori All Stars front rowers Pasami Saulo (Canberra) and Wiremu Greig (Parramatta). Halfback Zach Dockar-Clay (Sydney Roosters) and utility Asu Kepoaa also bank significant experience.

Named in the centres are 2019 Kiwi World Nines representative Bailey Simonsson (Parramatta) and Rocco Berry (One New Zealand Warriors), who has just come off his best NRL season so far; their fathers are both former All Blacks (Paul Simonsson and Marty Berry).

The side is packed with NRL rookies.

Apart from Going, winger and former All Black Sevens player Will Warbrick established himself in his debut season with Melbourne while others to make their maiden appearances this year have been fullback Keano Kini (Gold Coast), winger Ali Leiataua (One New Zealand Warriors), standoff Taine Tuaupiki (One New Zealand Warriors), second rower Jack Howarth (Melbourne) and bench forwards Paul Roache (One New Zealand Warriors) and Jack Chan (Melbourne). Canberra’s Trey Mooney, listed as 18th man, is also a rookie, his debut last year being his sole appearance before had added four games this season.

Second rower Jacob Laban (One New Zealand Warriors) is yet to make his first-grade debut as is giant bench forward Benjamin Te Kura (Brisbane) and 19th man Tanner Stowers-Smith (One New Zealand Warriors).

 

NZ KIWIS A v MATE MA’A TONGA A

EDEN PARK, AUCKLAND

1.30PM, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2023

  

NO. PLAYERS NAME CLUB
1 KEANO KINI Gold Coast
2 WILLIAM WARBRICK Melbourne
3 ROCCO BERRY One New Zealand Warriors
4 BAILEY SIMONSSON Parramatta
5 ALI LEIATAUA One New Zealand Warriors
6 TAINE TUAUPIKI One New Zealand Warriors
7 ZACH DOCKAR-CLAY Sydney Roosters
8 PASAMI SAULO Canberra
9 DANNY LEVI Canberra
10 WIREMU GREIG Parramatta
11 JACK HOWARTH Melbourne
12 JACOB LABAN One New Zealand Warriors
13 KALANI GOING One New Zealand Warriors
14 PAUL ROACHE One New Zealand Warriors
15 JOE CHAN Melbourne
16 BENJAMIN TE KURA Brisbane
17 ASU KEPAOA Wests Tigers
18 TREY MOONEY Canberra
19 TANNER STOWERS-SMITH One New Zealand Warriors
COACH NATHAN CAYLESS

The promising batch of players chosen to represent New Zealand Kiwis A in the opening match of Saturday’s triple-header at Eden Park will be eyeing the clash with Tonga A as a stepping stone to full Test honours.  

A 15-strong Kiwis A squad laced with experienced first-graders, emerging fringe NRL players and gun teenagers was named last week; they will be joined by three members of Michael Maguire’s Kiwis group not selected for the Pacific Championships Test against Toa Samoa.  

The selection of four Kiwis A tyros – Wests Tigers’ Asu Kepaoa, and Warriors trio Ali Leiataua, Jacob Laban and Tanner Stowers-Smith – in particular is a ringing endorsement of New Zealand Rugby League’s representative pathways.  

Versatile 23-year-old Kepaoa has already racked up 40 NRL appearances for the Tigers after being lured to Sydney by the Roosters aged just 17 and earning his NSW Cup spurs with North Sydney Bears.  

The Auckland junior represented Akarana Falcons and Counties Manukau Stingrays at age-group level, winning selection in the New Zealand Under-16s Merit Team, the New Zealand Residents 18s and – after linking with the Roosters – the 2019 Junior Kiwis side that featured the likes of Griffin Neame and Jordan Riki.  

Snapped up by the then-Maguire-coached Tigers midway through 2020, Kepaoa played five top-grade games on the wing and crossed for four tries. He had an extended NRL stint in the centres at the back end of 2022, while this year his 19 matches (in which he scored five tries) included starts in the second-row, in the centres and on the wing.  

Leiataua made his NRL debut in June as the Warriors memorably spoiled Canberra centre Jarrod Croker’s 300th game celebrations in a blistering 36-14 victory. The 20-year-old produced a superb display on both sides of the ball opposite the milestone man to announce himself as a star of the future.  

A hamstring injury suffered during that match sidelined Leiataua for more than two months, but he returned in time to play a standout role in the Warriors’ NSW Cup playoffs charge that ended at the preliminary final stage. In 16 NSW Cup appearances in 2023, Leiataua scored 10 tries, made 13 line-breaks, chalked up 77 tackle-breaks and six try assists, and averaged 137 running metres.  

The nephew of Warriors and Kiwis great Ali Lautiiti and the brother of Kiwi Ferns rep Onjeurlina Leiataua, the athletic outside back is a Papatoetoe Panthers junior whose representative achievements include New Zealand Residents 16s selection in 2019 (from Counties Manukau Stingrays) and New Zealand 18s Schools selection (from King’s College). A member of the Warriors’ inaugural SG Ball squad in 2020, Leiataua played for Auckland Blue in the 2021 NZRL Under-20s tournament before outlining his potential for Redcliffe Dolphins in the 2022 QRL Colts competition.  

Randwick Kingfishers (Wellington) product Jacob Laban – born in Moto’otua, Samoa – represented New Zealand Residents 16s in 2020 before finishing his secondary school studies in Auckland at Kelston Boys’ High. He was named College Sport Wellington’s rugby league player of the year in 2019 and earned the same award under the College Sport Auckland banner in 2021.  

Signed by the Warriors, Laban played in Redcliffe Dolphins’ under-18 and under-20 teams in 2022 and began this year in the Warriors’ SG Ball line-up. The 19-year-old second-rower’s rapid progress continued via 17 appearances at NSW Cup level – scoring five tries, and averaging 74 metres and 24 tackles a game – while he received a call-up to the Warriors’ extended bench for the final-round clash with the Dolphins.  

Tanner Stowers-Smith, also 19, capped a stunning 2023 rise with a late call-up to join six Warriors clubmates in the Kiwis A squad.  

The highly impressive middle forward hails from Canterbury Rugby League club Halswell Hornets and attended St Bede’s College, while he was briefly contracted to Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. A staple of Canterbury and South Island Scorpions age-group tournament teams, Stowers-Smith kicked off this season by captaining the Warriors’ SG Ball side.  

Stowers-Smith eventually made 13 NSW Cup appearances – including all three of the Warriors’ finals matches – and made a mighty impression in his five starts at prop or lock and eight interchange outings.  

An industrious worker on attack and defence with a dash of X-factor, Stowers-Smith comes from esteemed rugby league stock. His great-grandfather, Pat Smith, is a Canterbury legend and has the rare distinction of captaining the Kiwis in all 36 matches (including 10 Tests) he played for his country from 1947-49. CRL’s premier clubs vie for the Pat Smith Challenge Trophy on grand final day.  

New Zealand Kiwis A’s showdown with Tonga A kicks off at Eden Park at 1.30pm on Saturday, October 21. 

October 18, 2023

Four debutants have been named for the New Zealand Kiwis’ opening Pacific Championships match against Toa Samoa at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday (6.00pm kick-off).

Auckland-born Canberra centre Matthew Timoko is the only newcomer in the backline while Christchurch-born former Toa Samoa international Fa’amanu Brown (Newcastle) is set for his Kiwi debut at hooker.

The other two newcomers are West Coaster Griffin Neame (North Queensland) and Gisborne-born Leo Thompson (Newcastle) on the interchange.

Head coach Michael Maguire’s first selection of the year features 12 players who lined up for the Kiwis in their last international, the 14-16 loss to the Kangaroos in the Rugby League World Cup semifinal in Leeds on November 12 last year.

Winger Jamayne Isaako is recalled to the New Zealand team after last playing in the 2-0 series win against the touring Great Britain side in 2019.

“The core of the side is built around players who have shown the passion they have for the Kiwi jersey in the past,” said Maguire.

“Joining them are four players who are about to represent their country at this level for the first time. That’s hugely exciting for them and their families as it is for our whole group.”

The well-travelled Brown (28) provides significant international experience having represented Samoa since 2016 including at last year’s Rugby League World Cup in England.

Greymouth-raised Neame (22), who has made 43 NRL appearances for the Cowboys since 2021, was a non-playing member of the Kiwis’ squad for their mid-season Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga in Auckland last year.

The 23-year-old Thompson started the season by representing the Māori All Stars side against the Indigenous All Stars in Rotorua in February before making 25 appearances for the Knights to boost his NRL career tally to 41 since his debut last year.

Timoko (23) has made 62 appearances for the Raiders in the past four years, playing all 25 of their matches in 2023 when he finished with 11 tries, 118 tackle breaks and averaged 158 metres a game.

 

 

NZ KIWIS v TOA SAMOA

EDEN PARK, AUCKLAND

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2023

 

NO. PLAYERS NAME HERITAGE NUMBER
1 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD #820
2 RONALDO MULITALO #824
3 MATTHEW TIMOKO Debutant
4 JOSEPH MANU #815
5 JAMAYNE ISAAKO #808
6 DYLAN BROWN #826
7 JAHROME HUGHES #819
8 JAMES FISHER-HARRIS (C) #801
9 FA’AMANU BROWN Debutant
10 MOSES LEOTA #827
11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I #817
12 BRITON NIKORA #818
13 JOSEPH TAPINE #800
14 KIERAN FORAN #757
15 NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA #804
16 GRIFFIN NEAME Debutant
17 LEO THOMPSON Debutant
18 NAUFAHU WHYTE Debutant
19 WIREMU GREIG Debutant
20 DANNY LEVI #806
21 KEANO KINI Debutant

 

 

 

 October 15, 2023

Penrith’s three-times NRL premiership-winning prop James Fisher-Harris has been named to lead the New Zealand Kiwis in their Pacific Championships campaign.

The 27-year-old Northlander’s captaincy appointment was announced last night as the Kiwis and the New Zealand Kiwis A squads assembled in Auckland ahead of the Labour Weekend triple-header at Eden Park next Saturday.

The Kiwis take on Toa Samoa while the New Zealand A side will face Mate Ma’a Tonga A on a day when the Kiwis Ferns meet Mate Ma’a Tonga.

Fisher-Harris takes over the captaincy from veteran Kiwi Jesse Bromwich who has called time on his international career.

The 37 players selected for the two New Zealand teams gathered with staff and an array of Kiwi greats for last night’s announcement.

Ruben Wiki, Tawera Nikau, Stacey Jones, Stephen Kearney, Adam Blair and Nathan Cayless all spoke passionately about what the Kiwi jersey meant to them.

“It’s such a privilege and honour to be named to lead my country,” said Fisher-Harris.

“I’m proud to represent my family and the people from where I’m from (in Northland). It’ll be a special moment leading my teammates out against Toa Samoa at Eden Park.”

It won’t be Fisher-Harris’ first experience leading the Kiwis having filled the role for Bromwich in last year’s Rugby League World Cup clash against Jamaica in Hull.

“James has grown into a wonderful leader during my time with the Kiwis,” said Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire.

“He was a natural choice to become captain for this campaign. He’s so respected by all our players and staff alike, very much a leader whose actions do the talking.”

Fisher-Harris leads a Kiwi squad which includes 12 players who lined up in the 14-16 semi-final loss to the Kangaroos at the Rugby League World Cup last November.

 

JAMES FISHER-HARRIS

(Penrith Panthers)

Born: January 5, 1996

Birthplace: Rawene, NZ

Position: Second Row/Prop/Loose Forward

Height: 187cm

Weight: 103kg

Junior Club: Marist Brothers (Whangarei)

Other NRL Clubs: Nil

Kiwi Number: 801

Kiwi Test Debut: v Scotland, Workington, 2016

Tests: 12 for Kiwis (2016-2019)

Test Points: 4 (1 try)

NRL Games: 180 (2016-2023)

NRL Points: 48 (12 tries)

Auckland, New Zealand, October 10, 2023

 

Teenaged prop Tanner Stowers-Smith has added another chapter to his remarkable rugby league year after being called into the New Zealand Kiwis A squad for the Labour Weekend Triple-header encounter with Toa Samoa at Eden Park.

The Christchurch born and raised 19-year-old will go into camp in Auckland on Sunday alongside the rest of the A squad as well as the New Zealand Kiwis who are preparing to face Toa Samoa in their Pacific Championships international on October 21.

Stowers-Smith becomes the seventh One New Zealand Warriors player in the line-up joining clubmates Rocco Berry, Taine Tuaupiki, Ali Leiataua, Kalani Going, Paul Roache and Jacob Laban while Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad will also be in camp with the Kiwis’ Test squad. He’s one of three teenagers in the A squad, the others being Laban (19) and Brisbane’s Benjamin Te Kura (18).

The call-up caps an extraordinary season for the Halswell Hornets and St Bede’s College product.

The great grandson of legendary former Kiwi captain Pat Smith, Stowers-Smith excelled in both rugby league and rugby union as a schoolboy but opted for rugby league after finishing his schooling last year.

Signing a two-year deal with the Warriors, he started the 2023 season captaining the club’s under-19 side in the New South Wales Rugby League’s SG Ball Cup competition.

He appeared in all nine of the team’s games before being promoted to the New South Wales Cup side once the SG Ball season was over.

Playing alongside and against experienced campaigners, Stowers-Smith made his NSW Cup debut against the Sydney Roosters on April 30 and ended the season with 13 appearances including six starts.

 

NZ KIWIS A SQUAD 

 

NEW ZEALAND KIWIS A v  TONGA A
NAME CLUB
ROCCO BERRY One New Zealand Warriors
JOE CHAN Melbourne Storm
ZACH DOCKAR-CLAY Sydney Roosters
KALANI GOING One New Zealand Warriors
JACK HOWARTH Melbourne Storm
ASU KEPAOA Wests Tigers
JACOB LABAN One New Zealand Warriors
ALI LEIATAUA One New Zealand Warriors
TREY MOONEY Canberra Raiders
PAUL ROACHE One New Zealand Warriors
PASAMI SAULO Canberra Raiders
BAILEY SIMONSSON Parramatta Eels
TANNER STOWERS-SMITH One New Zealand Warriors
TAINE TUAUPIKI One New Zealand Warriors
BENJAMIN TE KURA Brisbane Broncos
WILLIAM WARBRICK Melbourne Storm

 

Auckland, New Zealand, October 4, 2023

Seven players are in line to make their New Zealand debuts after being named in the Kiwis’ 21-man squad for the inaugural Pacific Championships. 

The potential debutants are led by North Queensland prop Griffin Neame, a non-playing member of the New Zealand squad for last year’s mid-season Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga. 

Also named is Christchurch-born Newcastle utility Fa’amanu Brown, who comes into the New Zealand squad for the first time after representing Toa Samoa at last year’s Rugby League World Cup. 

Joining Neame and Brown are Parramatta and Māori All Stars front rower Wiremu Greig, 19-year-old Gold Coast NRL rookie fullback Keano Kini, Newcastle and Māori All Stars prop Leo Thompson, Canberra centre Matthew Timoko and Sydney Roosters middle forward Naufahu Whyte. 

Two former Kiwis who have also played for Samoa have been recalled. 

Dolphins winger Jamayne Isaako finished the 2023 NRL season as both the leading try scorer and the top points scorer. He last represented the Kiwis against Great Britain in 2019 as well as representing Samoa earlier that season. 

And experienced Canberra and Māori All Stars hooker Danny Levi returns after last playing for New Zealand at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. He has represented Toa Samoa since 2019 including at the World Cup last year.  

The remaining 12 players named were all in the Kiwis’ line-up for their World Cup semi-final against the Kangaroos when they were denied 16-14 in an epic battle at Elland Road in Leeds. 

Returning from the backline that night are 2022 Golden Boot winner Joseph Manu, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Dylan Brown and Jahrome Hughes. 

Penrith’s premiership-winning props James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota are back along with Isaiah Papali’i, Briton Nikora, Joseph Tapine, Kieran Foran and Nelson Asofa Solomona. 

“It’s always a real thrill being able to bring new players into the Kiwi camp,” said New Zealand Kiwis head coach Michael Maguire.  

“It’s a special place and these men have earned the opportunity. They’ll benefit so much from being around players who have done the jersey proud. 

“This series is exciting for the game in New Zealand and also a chance for us to start our journey to the next World Cup in 2025.” 

The Kiwis begin their campaign against Toa Samoa in a Labour Weekend triple header at Eden Park on Saturday, October 21 before facing the Kangaroos in Melbourne a week later. 

The series final will be played in Hamilton on November 4.  

  

2023 Kiwis Pacific Championship Squad:  

NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA   Melbourne Storm  
DYLAN BROWN   Parramatta Eels  
*FA’AMANU BROWN   Newcastle Knights  
JAMES FISHER-HARRIS   Penrith Panthers  
KIERAN FORAN   Gold Coast Titans  
*WIREMU GREIG   Parramatta Eels  
JAHROME HUGHES   Melbourne Storm  
JAMAYNE ISAAKO   The Dolphins  
*KEANO KINI   Gold Coast Titans  
MOSES LEOTA   Penrith Panthers  
DANNY LEVI   Canberra Raiders  
JOSEPH MANU   Sydney Roosters  
RONALDO MULITALO   Cronulla Sharks  
*GRIFFIN NEAME   North Queensland Cowboys  
CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD   One NZ Warriors  
BRITON NIKORA   Cronulla Sharks  
ISAIAH PAPALI’I   Wests Tigers  
JOSEPH TAPINE   Canberra Raiders  
*LEO THOMPSON   Newcastle Knights  
*MATTHEW TIMOKO   Canberra Raiders  
*NAUFAHU WHYTE   Sydney Roosters  

 

* denotes potential debut

A number of Kiwis, Kiwi Ferns, and fellow New Zealanders are set to take the field in the NRL and NRLW Grand Finals this Sunday October 1st. The games will be played at Sydney’s Accor Stadium, featuring defending champions the Newcastle Knights women and two-time consecutive NRL Premiers, the Penrith Panthers, looking to achieve a three-peat.

 

NRLW Grand Final – Newcastle Knights v Gold Coast Titans, Sunday 1st October, 5:55 pm NZST

Newcastle Knights:

#3 Shanice Parker (Kiwi Fern #163)

#4 Abigail Roache (Kiwi Fern #168)

#11 Laishon Albert-Jones (Kiwi Fern #161)

#14 Nita Maynard (Kiwi Fern #137)

The Newcastle Knights look to defend their 2022 title and are touted as favourites to win, having only lost once during the regular season. Kiwi Ferns bolster the Newcastle side across the pitch, with Roache and Parker in the centres, Albert-Jones inside Parker at second row, and Maynard to come off the bench as a substitute hooker. The Knights secured their spot in the Grand Final after a thrilling Preliminary Final which saw them narrowly outlast the Brisbane Broncos.

 

Gold Coast Titans:

#4 Niall Williams-Guthrie

#13 Georgia Hale, Captain (Kiwi Fern #122)

The Gold Coast Titans women enter their first Grand Final as underdogs after finishing the 2022 competition in last place. In an outstanding turnaround, the Queensland side finished fourth on the table and then went on to beat the formidable Sydney Roosters outfit in the Preliminary Finals. Kiwi Fern veteran Georgia Hale will lead the team onto the park as they aim to win their first NRLW Premiership. Niall Williams-Guthrie will take her place in the centres after only her first season of rugby league, having made the code-switch from New Zealand rugby sevens.

 

NRL Grand Final – Penrith Panthers v Brisbane Broncos, Sunday 1st October, 9:30 pm NZST

Penrith Panthers:

#8 Moses Leota (Kiwi #827)

#10 James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801)

#11 Scott Sorensen (Kiwi #831)

Moses Leota and James Fisher-Harris line up as the starting props in Penrith’s daunting forward pack, while Scott Sorensen will appear on the left edge at second-row. The Panthers will look to complete the first three-peat since the Eels 1981-1983 Premierships, but were beaten by the Broncos once during the regular season. Penrith enter their fourth consecutive Grand Final, following a dominant 38-4 win over the Melbourne Storm in their Preliminary Final.

 

Brisbane Broncos:

#2 Jesse Arthars

#12 Jordan Riki

Young Jesse Arthars and Jordan Riki will lace up for the Brisbane Broncos after consistently exceptional seasons. Both have been in the Broncos squad since the club’s infamous last-place season in 2020. The fiery Brisbane side has since become a force to be reckoned with, due to their powerful forward pack and explosive backs. They enter the Grand Final looking to win their first Premiership since 2006.

The 2023 Dally M Awards at Sydney’s Royal Randwick racecourse saw several Kiwi men and women take home some of the most prestigious awards at the NRL level.

The NRL and NRLW Dally M Teams of the Year recognises the best player in each position across all regular season rounds. Judges regularly vote on the best player in each position throughout the year, with a further vote conducted at the end of the regular season.

Significant changes to the Dally M voting process for both the NRL and NRLW competitions were introduced for the 2023 season. This season, two independent judges each gave out votes on a 3,2,1 basis for every game, meaning players could earn a maximum of six votes per game compared to three in previous years. The decision to add a second judge to assess each game in 2023 will increase the final total of points to players, but also the level of fairness in further removing potential variances arising from a single judge voting on a game.

First-class wingers Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Jamayne Isaako were named Wingers of the Year, with Jamayne also the NRL’s top point scorer this season. Watene-Zelezniak achieved the New Zealand Warriors club record for most tries in a season, while fellow teammate Shaun Johnson rightfully earned Halfback of the Year. Johnson had an outstanding comeback season that helped his side reach the NRL Preliminary Final for the first time in 12 years. He was only beaten by 1 point to narrowly miss out on the prestigious Dally M Medal.

Having only made their NRLW debuts at the beginning of the season, Mele Hufanga and Annessa Biddle took home the Centre and Rookie of the Year awards after consistently outstanding performances week in and week out. Hufanga starred for the semi-finalist Brisbane Broncos after debuting for the Kiwi Ferns at the 2022 Rugby League World Cup. The 21-year-old Biddle also finished second in the competition for post-contact metres (620). “What a season it’s been for me and I’m just so honoured and privileged to receive this award especially with the amount of outstanding rookies there were,” Biddle said.

 

2023 NRL DALLY M AWARDS, KIWI WINNERS

Winger of the Year – Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (New Zealand Warriors, Kiwi #794), Jamayne Isaako (Redcliffe Dolphins, Kiwi #808)

Halfback of the Year – Shaun Johnson (New Zealand Warriors, Kiwi #774)

 

2023 NRLW DALLY M AWARDS, KIWI WINNERS

Centre of the Year – Mele Hufanga (Brisbane Broncos, Kiwi Fern #166)

Rookie of the Year – Annessa Biddle (Cronulla Sharks)

 

For the full Team of the Year lists see here: NRL, NRLW

 

As seen on Sydney Morning Herald smh.com

Niall Williams-Guthrie remembers the intensity and the excitement of the 2004 NRL grand final.

She’d flown over from New Zealand to watch her 19-year-old brother, Sonny Bill Williams, play for the premiership in front of 80,000 people in just his first year in the NRL.

Nineteen years later, Williams-Guthrie is poised to experience those emotions all over again – but this time she’ll be on the field, rather than in the stands, when she runs out for the Titans in Sunday’s NRLW grand final.

“That was unreal, that was crazy [2004 final]. I remember sitting in the stands watching with all of our family, there was like 50 of us … it was a cool moment for our family,” Williams-Guthrie said.

“For me to even be a part of the Titans is massive, but hopefully be a part of a first premiership winning team, in any sport on the Gold Coast, is massive,” she said.

“We said we wanted to bring gold to the Gold [Coast]. We’ve never shied away that that was our end goal, but we knew we had to tick all the boxes to get there.

“To be able to put ourselves in the position where we are only one game away from doing that is just credit to the girls and our management.”

Williams-Guthrie is playing her first season in rugby league at the age of 35, after switching from rugby sevens where she won an Olympic silver and Commonwealth Games gold and bronze for New Zealand.

“Sometimes people talk to me like I’m a seasoned veteran because I’ve played sports for so long, but I’m pretty much 9-10 games deep in my league career,” she said.

And when she needs a bit of extra advice, her brother isn’t afraid to give some feedback.

“I get voice messages from him [Sonny], the whole debrief, after every game,” she said.

The Titans have been the surprise package of the NRLW season. Karyn Murphy’s team is made up of a mix of veterans like Stephanie Hancock (41) and Karina Brown (34), and a handful of teenagers fresh out of the Titans junior pathways such as Rilee Jorgensen and Destiny Mino-Sinapati.

One thing that Williams-Guthrie has that a lot of the younger players don’t is big game experience.

“One more set, that’s all we got. The next tackle, that’s all we got right now, right here and then,” she tells them.

“You can’t go too far ahead of yourself, or you don’t stay in the moment, and you’re thinking about the grand final, but you’re missing the tackle here.

“Whether it’s a good moment or a bad moment, you learn from it and you move on to the next one, and that’s what I’ve been drilling into some of the young girls.”

Just as she flew over to support Williams 2004, her family is flying across the ditch this weekend to cheer her on.

“The club helped me to get my daughters and Tama [husband] over for the grand final, so we just had to have that faith that we were going to be in the grand final,” she said. “They’re flying in the day before, and it’s been two and a half months since I last saw them, so it’s going to be a big reunion.”

As seen on nrl.com

The National Rugby League (NRL) has announced the nominees for the 2023 NRL Dally M Team of the Year as well as several individual Dally M awards for the NRL Telstra Premiership.

The Dally M Awards recognise the game’s most outstanding performers from both the NRL Telstra Premiership and NRL Telstra Women’s Premiership each year, with this year’s awards to be presented on Wednesday, September 27 in Sydney.

Significant changes to the Dally M voting process for both the NRL and NRLW competitions were introduced for the 2023 season.

This season, two independent judges each gave out votes on a 3,2,1 basis for every game, meaning players were able to earn a maximum of six votes per game compared to three in previous years.

The decision to add in a second judge to assess each game in 2023 will increase the final total of points to players, but also the level of fairness in further removing potential variances that arise from a single judge voting on a game.

Any player suspended for a total of two NRL regular season games becomes ineligible to claim any Dally M award, while a one-game suspension brings with it a deduction of six points this year (compared to a deduction of three points in past seasons). Players who become ineligible for awards due to suspension are still able to pick up points in subsequent games so as not to distort the voting process throughout the regular season.

However, players who are suspended for two games will be ineligible to collect any awards, deeming Kiwi players such as Jeremy Marshall-King, Jahrome Hughes, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Marata Niukore, and Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala not available.

The NRL Dally M Team of the Year recognises the best player in each position across all rounds of the regular season. Judges vote on the best player in each position at regular intervals throughout the year with a further vote conducted at the end of the regular season.

The player who polls the highest number of votes in each position is included in the Team of the Year, while players who finish in the top three of the overall Dally M Medal leaderboard receive their respective position in the Team of the Year if available.

 

2023 NRL Dally M Awards, Kiwi nominees

Winger of the Year (two winners) – Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (New Zealand Warriors), Jamayne Isaako (Redcliffe Dolphins), Ronaldo Mulitalo (Cronulla Sharks)

Halfback of the Year – Shaun Johnson (New Zealand Warriors)

Prop of the Year (two winners) – James Fisher-Harris (Panthers), Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Melbourne Storm)

Second Row of the Year (two winners) – Briton Nikora (Cronulla Sharks)

Lock of the Year – Tohu Harris (New Zealand Warriors)

Captain of the Year – Tohu Harris (New Zealand Warriors)

Rookie of the Year – William Warbrick (Melbourne Storm)

YOUI Tackle of the Year – Joseph Tapine (Canberra Raiders)

 

2023 NRLW Dally M Awards, Kiwi nominees

Centre of the Year (two winners) – Annessa Biddle (Cronulla Sharks), Mele Hufanga (Brisbane Broncos), Shanice Parker (Newcastle Knights)

Five-Eighth of the Year – Gayle Broughton (Brisbane Broncos)

Halfback of the Year – Raecene McGregor (St George Illawarra Dragons)

Second Row of the Year (two winners) – Otesa Pule (Sydney Roosters)

Lock of the Year – Georgia Hale (Gold Coast Titans)

Captain of the Year – Georgia Hale (Gold Coast Titans)

Rookie of the Year – Annessa Biddle (Cronulla Sharks)

Try of the Year – Leianne Tufuga (Wests Tigers)

 

Read more on nrl.com

As seen on nzherald

FMG Stadium Waikato will host the Pacific Cup grand final on Saturday, November 4, as part of the newly announced Pacific Championships in partnership with New Zealand Rugby League.

The 2023 Pacific Championships is a two-tiered competition with six men’s teams and seven women’s teams taking part in the tournament across two pools.

“I firmly believe the Pacific Cup will be the biggest international rugby league event on home soil since the 2017 World Cup,” said NZRL chief executive Greg Peters.

Hamilton City Council’s General Manager of Venues, Tourism and Major Events, Sean Murray, said: “We’re working hard to deliver an exceptional Pacific Championship final at FMG Stadium Waikato. The team looks forward to passionate fans and the exposure this game will bring to our city and region.”

“How special to bring the best players in the world back home to play in front of their communities,” Peters said.

“We’re excited to work with these Pacific teams to bring our rugby league heroes back home and unite fans across New Zealand and the Pacific.

“No other code can produce such a celebration of culture and passion; the atmosphere will be unmissable.”

Full schedule below:

Week One – October 14-15

  • Australia v Samoa (men) and Australia v New Zealand (women) at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
  • PNG v Cook Islands (men) and Samoa v Fiji (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

Week Two – October 21-22

  • New Zealand v Samoa (men), New Zealand v Tonga (women), and NZ Kiwis A v Tonga A (men) at Eden Park, Auckland
  • Fiji v Cook Islands (men) and PNG v Cook Islands (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

Week Three – October 28-29

  • Australia v New Zealand (men and women) at AAMI Park, Melbourne
  • PNG v Fiji (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

Week Four – November 4-5

  • The final of the men’s Pacific Cup tournament on November 4 at FMG Stadium Waikato, New Zealand
  • The final of the men’s Pacific Bowl tournament on November 5 at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

Tickets for the Pacific Championships grand final are on sale to the public now from Ticketek.

As seen on nrl.com

If you’ve watched him play this season then you’ll struggle to believe it, but confidence has never really been a strong point for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

Humility was central in his upbringing as part of a Māori whānau (family) in Hamilton, New Zealand, and it’s a big reason why he’s become one of the most popular members of the Warriors’ squad since joining mid-season in 2021.

But as he’s learned in the more recent part of his now 12-year professional career, it’s also a trait which has at times held him back on the rugby league field and meant he hasn’t always backed himself.

“It’s something I have lacked in the past for sure. I am not a very confident person and that is something I have worked on,” Watene-Zelezniak told NRL.com.

“I never grew up talking about my achievements and things like that.

“I have had a mind coach now for a few years and I am just trying to believe in myself and the things I can do. That goes a long way to performing out on the field.

“Also knowing that I have been around a long time and you don’t lose things, you gain things, and most of it is in my head.”

The results are hard to argue with so far in 2023.

Following his stunning hat-trick to help his side past the Sea Eagles 29-22 last Friday, the veteran has shot up to 21 tries for the year and is equal with Jamayne Isaako and Alex Johnston as the NRL’s top try-scorer, despite playing six less games than the former and five fewer than Johnston.

It also puts him on track to become the most prolific Warrior of all time across a single season, with the mark of 23 tries achieved by both Francis Meli and David Fusitu’a in the past set to be crushed if the 28-year-old remains fit.

He has failed to score a four-pointer just once in his past 12 games and has just four games this year without at least one try to his name.

But ask him how he’s doing it and those old habits creep back, with his teammates, coaches and whānau all listed as reasons before he takes any credit himself.

“I am a lot of things before I’m a footy player and being a husband and father are my most treasured things… what my wife and kids are doing for me at home has been so important,” he said.

I have got a lot of clarity in what I am doing, thanks to Webby [coach Andrew Webster] and his game plan and what he has been talking to me about, the way he has narrowed my role.

“What Shaun [Johnson], Marata [Niukore] and Rocco [Berry] and Charnze [Nicoll-Kolkstad] are doing, I am reaping the rewards for that. They are doing the tough stuff, I get to do the pretty stuff.”

Meanwhile the impact of the Warriors’ remarkable rise to prominence this year continues to be felt across the NRL, with ticket sales for the club’s clash against the Dragons this Friday at Go Media Stadium reaching capacity within hours of their win in Round 25.

Read more on nrl.com/news/2023/08/21/dwz-embracing-the-swagger-as-club-record-nears/

16 August 2023

Tickets for the rugby league triple-header at Eden Park are on sale now | https://bit.ly/BuyRLTickets

Tamaki Makaurau Auckland’s Eden Park will host a blockbuster rugby league triple-header between New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga on Saturday, October 21st, as part of the newly announced Pacific Championships in partnership with the NRL.

The Kiwis will face Samoa, igniting a new Pacific rivalry hot off last year’s World Cup momentum; the Kiwi Ferns will line up against Tonga, and an NZ Kiwi A team will assemble for the first time in 17 years.

Thanks to the current depth of the New Zealand talent pool, the NZ Kiwis A team will consist of current and future Kiwi-committed NRL stars who will take on a Tonga A team as the opening match of the rugby league triple-header.

“How special to bring the best players in the world back home to play in front of their communities. Without the support from Tātaki Auckland Unlimited this series wouldn’t have happened,” says NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

“We’re excited to work with Samoa to bring their rugby league heroes back home and unite fans across New Zealand and the Pacific.

“No other code can produce such a celebration of culture and passion; the atmosphere will be unmissable.”

The 2023 Pacific Championships is a two-tiered competition with six men’s teams and seven women’s teams taking part in the tournament across two pools.

Waikato’s FMG Stadium will host the Pacific Cup grand final on November 4th.

“I firmly believe the Tamaki Makaurau Auckland triple-header and Waikato final will be the biggest international rugby league events on home soil since the 2017 World Cup,” adds NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

Hamilton City Council’s General Manager of Venues, Tourism and Major Events, Sean Murray says, “We’re working hard to deliver an exceptional Pacific Championship Final at FMG Stadium Waikato. The team looks forward to passionate fans and the exposure this game will bring to our city and region.”

 

Full schedule below:

Week One – October 14-15

  • Australia v Samoa (men) and Australia v New Zealand (women) at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
  • PNG v Cook Islands (men) and Samoa v Fiji (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

Week Two – October 21-22

  • New Zealand v Samoa (men), New Zealand v Tonga (women), and NZ Kiwis A v Tonga A (men) at Eden Park, Auckland
  • Fiji v Cook Islands (men) and PNG v Cook Islands (women) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

Week Three – October 28-29

  • Australia v New Zealand (men and women) at AAMI Park, Melbourne
  • PNG v Fiji (men) at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

Week Four – November 4-5

  • The Final of the men’s Pacific Cup tournament on November 4 in Hamilton, New Zealand
  • The Final of the men’s Pacific Bowl tournament on November 5 at Santos Stadium, Port Moresby

The Pacific Championships will be staged in 2023 and 2024, after the NRL and NRLW Premiership seasons, and will include men’s and women’s teams from Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Cook Islands.

Tickets for the rugby league triple-header at Eden Park are on sale now | https://bit.ly/BuyRLTickets

 

As seen on warriors.kiwi

Taine Tuaupiki’s inclusion for unavailable first-choice fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad is the only change to the One New Zealand Warriors’ line-up for their 24th-round clash against the Wests Tigers at FMG Waikato Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday night (7.30pm kick-off).

Nicoll-Klokstad is subject to NRL concussion protocols after being forced off the field following a high tackle from Gold Coast prop Moeaki Fotuaika early in last Friday night’s encounter in Robina.

The 23-year-old Tuaupiki was activated as 18th man to replace Nicoll-Klokstad after Fotuaika was sent off and will start this week in what will be his fourth NRL appearance. He was impressive in his 63 minutes against Gold Coast making 165 metres from 17 runs with six tackle breaks and five tackles.

The rest of the starting line-up and interchange is the same as the combination used in the 28-18 victory over the Titans, a result which kept the Warriors in third place on the ladder.

The away game at a sold out FMG Waikato Stadium will be the 700th in the One New Zealand Warriors’ history and the 248th career appearance for halfback Shaun Johnson. Hamilton-raised Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will be looking to extend a stunning try-scoring streak which has seen him score 15 tries in his last 10 outings, failing to score only in the home loss to South Sydney.

 

Read more here – https://www.warriors.kiwi/news/2023/08/08/rd-24-team-list-tuaupiki-starts/

As seen on newshub.co.nz

Read more here – https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/sport/2023/08/rugby-league-mackenzie-wiki-following-in-footsteps-of-kiwi-nrl-icon-father-ruben.html?

 

While NZ Warriors are riding high in the men’s NRL, a big group of Kiwi women hope to make a similar impact in the NRLW.

One of them is quite literally creating history, with Mackenzie Wiki following in the footsteps of her father, representing the ‘Green Machine’ of the Canberra Raiders.

Whenever Wiki works out, there are reminders that rugby league is in her DNA – working out underneath a poster of dad Ruben.

“The old man up there in the top corner,” she told Newshub. “Looking down on me, making sure I’m doing it right.”

 

As seen on stuff.co.nz

Read more here – https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/league/132603954/former-kiwis-star-shaun-kennydowall-leads-hull-kr-to-wembley-dream-challenge-cup-final

 

Hull Kingston Rover’s Kiwi captain Shaun Kenny-Dowall claimed it was “every kid’s dream’’ to play at Wembley – and now he has achieved his goal.

Kenny-Dowall – dubbed SKD during his long NRL career – captained Hull KR to a 11-10 golden point win over Wigan in the Challenge Cup semifinal in Leeds on Sunday (Monday NZ time).

Brad Schneider’s 82nd minute field goal put Hull KR into the August 12 Wembley final against promoted Super League rivals Leigh Leopards.

Kenny-Dowall – set to retire at the end of the season – leapt onto a throng of players congratulating Schneider, who was playing his second game for Hull KR after a mid-season move from the Canberra Raiders.

As seen on nrl.com

Read more here – https://www.nrl.com/news/2023/07/20/so-much-joy-sj-reflects-on-a-week-like-no-other/

 

Looking into his daughter’s eyes as she scanned the 24,000 screaming fans who filled Go Media Stadium last Sunday, Shaun Johnson experienced a new career highlight.

Days on from inking a new one-year deal with the Warriors, Johnson had the chance to carry two-year-old Millah out onto the field with him ahead of the 44-12 victory over the Sharks in Round 20, as he was recognised for reaching 200 games for the club a week prior.

 

As seen on nzherald.co.nz

Read more here – https://www.nzherald.co.nz/kahu/one-of-the-greatest-underdog-makes-it-big-stories-briton-nikora/ZRCWAKIIXZGJDHDYMUNBWRYU7M/

 

NRL player Briton Nikora (Ngāti Maniapoto, Te Arawa, Ngāti Awa) might just possess one of the greatest underdog-makes-it-big stories.

“I remember a couple of teachers who said: ‘You’d better listen because you’ll never play in the NRL’,” he said in an interview with Te Ao With Moana’s Hikurangi Kimiora Jackson.

“There would’ve been heaps of people that doubted me. Just coming up in the grades, just obviously not making like teams.”

It might shock some but Nikora, who was selected for the Kiwis after just 12 games in the NRL and just recently hit the 100 games milestone, almost gave up on his NRL dream.

As seen on NRL.com

Read more here – https://www.nrl.com/news/2023/07/11/a-tale-of-two-sjs-the-legacy-of-johnson–jones/

Few outside the club knew it at the time, but in the final months of 2008, when Stacey Jones answered an SOS call from Ivan Cleary to come out of retirement, the Little General was making a crucial contribution to the career of his heir apparent.

Aged just 18 at the time, a scrawny touch player named Shaun Johnson was well and truly on the club’s radar as the possible long-term answer to their halves puzzle, something which had eluded them since Jones left the club for the south of France at the end of 2005.

As seen on warriors.kiwi

 

The One New Zealand Warriors have rallied around former head coach Daniel Anderson in his recovery from a catastrophic spine injury.

Anderson, who guided the NRL side from 2001 to 2004, was bodysurfing at Soldiers Beach in New South Wales while on vacation with his family in December last year when he went into cardiac arrest after being dumped on his head by a wave.

The 56-year-old was dragged out of the water semi-conscious by two off-duty paramedics who happened to be nearby.

The NRL has today launched the Daniel Anderson Support Fund and announced round 25 will be the ‘Daniel Anderson Round’, with a number of initiatives and public fundraising drives scheduled across that week to support the Anderson family.

One New Zealand Warriors CEO Cameron George is part of a working group, along with several figures from both the Sydney Roosters and Parramatta, who are in talks around how best to action those.

The One New Zealand Warriors have changed their annual Old Boys’ Day to fall on their 25th-round clash against Manly at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart.

Many of the past players expected to be in attendance were coached by Anderson.

“Daniel is a huge part of this club’s history, and the Anderson family a big part of the success of the organisation today,” said George.

“Round 25 will be our big New Zealand fundraiser and further details around those initiatives and how the public can get around it will be confirmed soon.

“We will certainly be playing our part as a club to contribute in supporting Daniel and his family at this time.”

Somewhat unbelievably, Anderson is still working for the Sydney Roosters as head of recruitment, putting in about 10 hours a week from his rehab centre.

An online fundraiser has been set up, where the public can donate to aid in his recovery.

Link here: https://danielandersonfund.com.au/

  • Watch ‘Face To Face’ on Sky Sport 4 at 9.30 tonight when Fox League’s Yvonne Sampson talks to Daniel Anderson.

24th May 2023

Hull KR today confirmed Club Captain Shaun Kenny-Dowall will retire at the end of the 2023 season after a memorable 17-year professional career to take up an exciting role as part of the club’s coaching team from 2024.

Having recently surpassed his 350th career game in the NRL and Super League, Shaun has had an illustrious career in both hemispheres. Kenny-Dowall made his NRL debut for the Sydney Roosters on March 19th against South Sydney Rabbitohs, starting on the wing.

The New Zealand native made 277 NRL appearances for the Sydney Roosters and Newcastle Knights, helping the Roosters secure the 2013 NRL Grand Final in a dramatic win over the Manly Sea-Eagles, with Kenny-Dowall scoring a vital try in the 60th minute.

A proud Kiwi, the 35-year-old was part of New Zealand’s 2010 and 2014 Four Nations victories, both over Australia. In total, the former Ngaruawahia Panther received 17 caps for the New Zealand national team, scoring nine tries for the side.

Shaun joined Hull KR ahead of the 2020 season, making 74 appearances so far in Red and White and helping the Robins’ during a period of exciting progress on and off the field.

In 2021, SKD become the club’s Captain following in the footsteps of Roger Millward, Mike Smith, Michael Dobson and Mose Masoe. At the end of the 2023 season, Shaun will begin his new role as a Development Coach for 2024, working within the first team coaching structure while mentoring the club’s young talent from the Academy up to the Robins’ first team.

Speaking on his retirement and new role for 2024, Shaun spoke of his gratitude to the sport while outlining his excitement for his new coaching role with the club in 2024: ‘I’ve made the decision to retire at the end of the 2023 season and call time on my 17-year career as a professional rugby player.

‘This sport has given me everything and I want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me on this journey. I’ll reflect on it all at the end of the season.

‘Until then though, it’s all to play for. I’ll continue to love every moment I have left on the field as a Robin.

‘For 2024, I’m honoured to be taking on a new exciting challenge here at Hull KR, mentoring the club’s future stars from the Academy up to the First Team.

‘I’m incredibly grateful to be staying with this great club for 2024. I’d like to say a special thank you to the club’s board and Willie Peters for the opportunity and the faith they’ve shown in me for my new exciting role.

‘But for now, I want to finish my final season on a high and win silverware with this great club.

‘Keep your amazing support coming, Red Army. See you on the other side.

SKD.’

Hull KR Head Coach. Willie Peters said: ‘Shaun is a leader of men. He leads through his actions every day at training and every time he takes the field.

‘I value my relationship with Shaun greatly and he’s been a great help since I joined the club last year. I’m excited to work side by side with Shaun as part of the club’s coaching team next season.

‘We are delighted Shaun has accepted a very important position as Development Coach at Hull KR next season.

‘Shaun will play an integral part in our vertical alignment throughout the whole club. Shaun will help the club to develop quality, homegrown juniors ready for Super League alongside our Academy staff.

‘Special thank you to our Board for approving this important role within the club.

‘Before he starts, Shaun has a lot more to achieve on the field as he’s motivated to end his outstanding playing career on a high.’

Hull KR Chief Executive, Paul Lakin added: ‘Shaun is an outstanding leader, a motivator and a shining example to players at all levels of how you get the very most out of your career.

‘He has been pivotal to the culture we have set here at Hull KR and we, as a board, are delighted that Shaun is staying within the club, sharing his vast experience in a vitally important development coaching role working across the Academy, Reserves and First Team.’

As seen on nzherald.co.nz

Kiwi wrecking ball Valynce Te Whare has become an instant cult hero after a stunning debut for the Dolphins in their win over the Sharks last night.

Te Whare, who only converted to league 18 months ago, has been dubbed ‘Val Meninga’ by fans after scoring twice in the 36-16 victory.

Te Whare played eight NPC games for Waikato in the 2019 and 2020 seasons before a brief stint at King Country. Late in 2021 he signed a deal with the Dolphins to make the switch to rugby league, more than a year before the franchise’s first ever game. He impressed in the Hostplus Cup last season being named Centre of the Year and continued that form to earn his NRL call-up this week.

Playing centre with a forward’s frame, the 22-year-old scored his first NRL try by pushing off four Sharks defenders in the 23rd minute to give the home team an early 18-0 lead. He added another try in the second half.

Following his impressive performance, Kiwis in the stands and fellow teammates paid tribute to the star debutant by performing an emotional haka for Te Whare.

Te Whare then acknowledged the fans and his teammates by joining in before hugging family, friends and supporters in the stands.

Te Whare was praised by league experts and commentators for his performance on Saturday.

“Impossible to stop at close range. There are comparisons physically with an immortal, with Mal Meninga and that was an awesome run to get to the try line,” Fox Sport commentator Dan Ginnane said.

Fellow commentator and Broncos great Corey Parker was astounded by Te Whare’s power.

“On debut, only moments ago he got stood up by Mulitalo. But have a look at this, from a standing start the power and acceleration,” he said.

Ginnane added: “You can see the joy he brings. Talking about cult hero at the end of the season, his first grade career is just 24 minutes old — he’s a cult hero now.”

Last week Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett was made aware of the Val Meninga nickname but wasn’t buying it.

“There is no way you can get that surname out in one mouthful so he is known as Val Smith around here,” he said.

“Val Meninga. I like that line,” Bennett continued.

“I saw that the other day and I thought, ‘What are the similarities between him and Mal Meninga?”

“I coached Mal. He is a great player and a great guy. I thought the only similarity was his shorts. I reckon they are both the same size. He is no Mal Meninga, I can tell you that.”

According to NRL.com, Te Whare was the 183rd player to be given an NRL debut by Bennett with the Dolphins’ clash against the Sharks his 900th in charge.

“He is one of the first players we signed here. (Recruitment manager) Peter O’Sullivan saw him in New Zealand playing rugby in the schoolboys,” he said.

“To his credit he has worked really hard and had to make a pretty big adaption from rugby to rugby league. We have invested quite a bit of time in him. It has worked out for both parties.”

 

New Zealand Rugby League mourns the loss of Fullback/Utility Roger (Spud) Tait, Kiwi #440.

Tait played 33 games for the Kiwis, including 11 Test matches. The 1961 season saw him earn the World Record for the most points in a season, totalling 468 points from 34 tries and 83 goals in just 38 games.

Tait played for Waikato and Auckland and finished as captain-coach of the Woden Valley Rams in 1979.

NZRL extends its condolences to the Tait whānau; he will be greatly missed.

Former captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is re-joining the One New Zealand Warriors in 2024 after signing a three-year contract to the end of the 2026 NRL season.

The One New Zealand Warriors granted Tuivasa-Sheck’s request for an early release to switch to rugby union late in the 2021 season but the club has today announced his return to rugby league for a second term with his hometown club.

“It’s hugely exciting knowing Roger is coming back to us, back to his home at Mount Smart Stadium,” said One New Zealand Warriors CEO Cameron George.

“When he went to rugby union he did so knowing he was always welcome back here if he wished to return to rugby league. We couldn’t be more delighted it’s happening.

“He’s popular with the players and a real fan favourite. It’s going to be so good seeing him back in our jersey.”

When Tuivasa-Sheck switched to rugby union he had made 111 appearances for the Warriors from 2016-2021 with his career tally standing at 195 games. He had also played 20 Tests for the Kiwis.

“Roger is such a high-quality person and leader who will add another layer to our squad with his enthusiasm, experience, skill and professionalism,” said Andrew McFadden, the club’s general manager recruitment, pathways and development.

“He’ll be a tremendous mentor for our younger players while he’ll also bring in a fresh perspective after spending time in rugby union.”

One New Zealand Warriors head coach Andrew Webster is looking forward to renewing his relationship with Tuivasa-Sheck.

“Roger came to the club in my second season as an assistant coach in 2016 and he had a huge impact on the squad,” said Webster.

“That first year was cut short by his ACL injury but it was brilliant working with him. I’m super excited knowing he’s coming back to the club.”

George said the club won’t be adding further comment to the signing announcement to enable Tuivasa-Sheck to focus on his rugby union commitments for the rest of the year.

  • In 2021 Tuivasa-Sheck became only the second player after Simon Mannering to lead the One New Zealand Warriors in 100 matches.
  • He was the first Warriors player to win the coveted Dally M Medal in 2018 and he was honoured with the top international player award – the Golden Boot – in 2019.
  • He is the only player to win the One New Zealand Warriors’ player of the year accolade in three consecutive seasons (2017, 2018 and 2019).
  • Tuivasa-Sheck’s switch to rugby union saw him make his Test debut for the All Blacks last year before adding two more appearances.

20 April 2023

Mainstream has extended its commitment to New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) for a further four years as Principal Sponsor of the Kiwi Ferns & Referees and Official Associate Sponsor of the Kiwis.

The extended partnership will see Mainstream continue its tenure with NZRL through to the 2025 World Cup after joining the rugby league whānau in 2017.

Throughout the partnership, Mainstream remained an invaluable supporter of the game at all levels, staying loyal to NZRL through the Covid-19 pandemic when there was zero international rugby league activity for nearly two years.

Mainstream continues to show integral support for the women’s game and has been avid supporters of the Kiwi Ferns since the partnership’s inception.

NZRL CEO Greg Peters says Mainstream is an integral member of the NZRL whānau.

“It’s an exciting milestone to extend our partnership with Mainstream through to a third Rugby League World Cup,” says Peters.

“Mainstream has shown invaluable support through some of our most challenging times, and their support of the women’s game has been felt widespread among our Ferns group.

“I know we are all delighted to continue this partnership, and I look forward to what we’ll be able to achieve over the next three years as we enter one of the most exciting eras in international rugby league.”

Managing Director of Mainstream Greg Haliday says, “Mainstream is looking forward to building on the great relationship we have enjoyed over the last few years with the Kiwis and the Kiwi Ferns. You can be sure that our own team will be closely supporting the men’s and women’s teams right through to the excitement of the 2025 World Cup”.

Written by Matt Manukuo

 

As seen on pmn.co.nz

Mackenzie Wiki, daughter of NRL legend Ruben Wiki, has made a historic deal signing with the Canberra Raiders women’s team.

Wiki will be the first daughter of a former NRL player, to sign with the same club of their parent.

The Cook Island international made her representative debut in last years Women’s Rugby League World Cup, where she picked up two tries in her three games.

Mackenzie, 21, says rugby league is a sport she developed a love for.

“This is only my second year of footy, I always played sevens, netball and I was a swimmer. When I was younger I never had the drive to play league, I was just watching Dad because I love footy.

“Getting into it last year I just found this love for it, actually being on the field rather than watching it.

“It’s an honour to follow my Dad at the same club. His first club was Raiders and now my first club is Raiders. It’s just surreal.”​

Mackenzie follows in her father, Ruben footsteps, who debuted for the Raiders 30 years ago. He says once Mackenzie dons the green jersey, it will be an emotional milestone for their family.

“Lost for words sorry it’s an emotional one – if that did come to the fray, it would be a very special moment for our family.

“Due to watching the kids being born here, watching their dad run around and it would be amazing to see her from the grandstand. She does suit the colour, it would be amazing.”

As seen on https://www.stuff.co.nz

 

For the first time in a long time the walking, talking punching bag that is Shaun Johnson is experiencing a feeling he had almost forgotten was possible.

“I’m so happy and I love being happy,” Johnson said after his penalty goal helped the Warriors seal a drama-charged 32-30 win over Cronulla on Sunday.

Johnson has good reason to feel that way, given the Warriors are 4-1 to start the season for the first time since 2018 and sit in second spot on the NRL ladder.

He’s two points off the top of the Dally M leaderboard, too, and looks comfortable in his own skin managing Andrew Webster’s durable and dogged Warriors outfit around the park.

It’s a welcome change from a testing few years for the charismatic 32-year-old halfback.

He was shown the door by the Sharks at the end of 2021, got dropped by the Kiwis and had to be separated from wife Kayla and daughter Millah in a testing return season to the Warriors which was mostly spent in Australia.

“People didn’t understand how much that was affecting him, I saw his daughter grow up on the phone with him,” Warriors hooker Wayde Egan said.

“That took a massive toll on him, he’s back around the people he loves and I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Johnson – 231 games and 13 seasons into an NRL career – finally feels like he is in a good space.

Part of that is linked to the fact that Webster has given him a clear vision of his playing style which has been a constant source of debate since his arrival in the NRL as a hot-stepping five-eighth.

“It’s the confidence that I get from the top down,” Johnson said.

“The most common line I hear (from the outside) is ‘you need to run the ball’.

“I’ll look at that and go ‘what do you f…ing mean? I’m not a front-rower’.

“It’s the clarity around the positions ‘Webby’ puts me in within our structure where I can run the ball. It’s my choice if I want to run the ball.”

When the going has got tough – like when they were 20-0 down against Cronulla – Johnson and his Warriors team have found a way to get themselves out of trouble.

“I love winning and working hard for something and achieving it,” he said.

“I love that I get to go home and see my wife and my daughter.

“The whole product is there for me right now, inside and outside of football. I haven’t had that in the past and people won’t get that.

“We get judged on 80 minutes, so the happiness for me is that we’re showcasing the hard work. That’s ultimately what I’m happy about … You can’t pay for happiness.”

 

5 April 2023

The New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) board has today announced that Kiwis’ Head Coach, Michael Maguire and Kiwi Ferns’ Head Coach, Ricky Henry, will remain in their positions through the 2025 World Cup.

NZRL recently concluded its 2022 Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) debrief, where both Maguire and Henry’s roles as Head Coaches have been extended, with the board confident they are the right people to lead New Zealand to victory come 2025.

In addition, NZRL has identified key areas where further support is needed to ensure success in the next campaign.

“Overall, there were many positives to take away from both campaigns,” says NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

“However, we recognise where NZRL has to provide further support to put us in the best position to be victorious in 2025.”

Improved depth, a culture change, and evident growth since 2017 were all positive talking points in the RLWC debrief.

“Since Michael came on board, NZRL and the Kiwi playing group have made significant strides since their last World Cup appearance,” says Peters.

“No doubt the semi-final heartbreak still stings, but the growth the squad has experienced under Michael gives the board confidence he is the coach to lead the Kiwis to victory in 2025.”

“The board has the same confidence in Ricky”, Peters adds.

“He has done great work with the Ferns. Despite one of our more inexperienced world cup squads, nearly defeating the Jillaroos in pool play and a convincing win over England in the semi-final are positive takeaways.

“Of course, we were all disappointed in the final result; however, with increased support from NZRL, the board is confident Ricky remains the right man for the job.”

Henry is grateful for the continued opportunity and is determined to nurture New Zealand’s pathways.

“It’s an exciting time to be involved in women’s rugby league and a privilege to lead the Kiwi Ferns through to 2025,” says Henry.

“The women’s game is evolving rapidly, and I’m determined to create the best pathways to nurture and develop New Zealand’s female talent. My focus will be getting us back to number 1 in the world and bringing that World Cup trophy back home to New Zealand.”

Maguire remains confident in the direction and progress of the Kiwi team, with his eyes set on victory in 2025.

“We have achieved enormous growth since 2017,” says Maguire.

“To be only inches away from the final still hurts; however, this playing group is more determined than ever to take home a World Cup for themselves, their families and their country.

“There is a strong culture among the boys, the passion for the Black and White jersey is undeniable, couple that with the exciting talent coming through, we’re in a positive place.”

“No doubt, there’s unfinished business,” adds Maguire.

“Thank you to the NZRL Board for continuing their faith in me as Head Coach. It’s a privilege to coach this Kiwi team, and I’m confident in what we can achieve over the next three years.”

NZRL CEO Greg Peters emphasises the need for regular international programmes.

“The lead-up to the 2022 campaign was heavily disrupted due to Covid, with New Zealand not playing Australia since 2019. The added delay of the 2021 tournament means there’s only a two-year window before the next RLWC.”

“Consistency and yearly international programmes have never been more important,” he adds.

“We need an annual end-of-year International competition with regular Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns Tests that become permanent fixtures in the rugby league calendar.

“We’re working closely with the NRL and IRL to flesh out what this looks like and will be in a position to announce the 2023 International programme soon.”

 

 

 

As seen on https://www.stuff.co.nz

 

Expect a “warts and all” look at several former top rugby league players in the new season of Match Fit as they try to get themselves back in shape – both physically and mentally.

This time the show focuses on a group of ex-rugby league players who have come together to train, bond and improve their health.

Match Fit fans can expect more tears, laughter, banter and frank discussions in the show’s new season.

Former Kiwi internationals Tawera Nikau and Ruben Wiki, the two coaches for Match Fit’s new season, say the players really showed their vulnerabilities but they were enormously proud of them as well.

 

“One of the key things for us,” says Nikau, “was warts and all, the boys really showing themselves around their vulnerability. But also they stepped up to the challenge, they rose to the occasion and really pushed themselves.

“And a lot of them haven’t done that for 15-20 years. So the transformation and transition from where they were as elite athletes to where they were in normal life and the challenge that was set to them, man, it was just so inspirational.

“I was so privileged and proud to be part of this journey as the coach along with Ruben.”

As with the rugby seasons of Match Fit, the former top-level athletes will go through various training sessions and tests as they work towards taking part in a big match – this time against the Australian Kangaroos.

The aim is to improve overall wellbeing which includes physical as well as mental health.

Gone are coaches Sir Graham Henry and Sir Buck Shelford who have been replaced by Nikau, 56, and Wiki, 50, who are coaching former top league players including Jerry Seuseu, Clinton Toopi, Ali Lauiti’iti and Lesley Vainikolo.

“I think for us, as a league fraternity, it was reuniting our brotherhood that the Kiwis have had for a long, long time, going back to 1908,” says Wiki, who has also played for the Warriors and the Canberra Raiders.

“There is a lot of history in the Kiwi jersey and to be together with these gentlemen who are going through this transformation – also with the likes of Tawera – it was good to reconnect and see them go through this awesome journey.

“It was a family reunion all over again. It’s totally going to be different to what they (viewers) have seen in the last two (seasons of) Match Fit.”

Nikau, who played for the Melbourne Storm and Cronulla Sharks, echoes Wiki’s sentiments.

While Wiki and Nikau didn’t want to give too much away about individual players’ transformations and journeys, being involved in Match Fit clearly had a positive impact on all of them.

“For me it was really being able to go on the journey with the boys once again,” says Nikau.

 

“You go through these different stages within your life, in your career. In terms of that, I suppose I’m at the far end of the spectrum, but it was really enlightening. For me, I took a lot personally out of that, physically and mentally.

“Physically, I sort of got involved in the training with the boys. Because I’ve been through some challenges in my life, I share some of that in the programme…

“Being a mentor to some of the boys is about sharing some of the journey that I’ve been on. It was great, I loved it.”

Wiki also enjoyed being involved in Match Fit.

“Going on this journey Tawera and I as coaches, we walked the walk,” he says. “We backed it up by doing what the boys were doing. We wanted to be amongst as much as we could physically and mentally. So it was great to be there right beside them and going through the whole journey with them.

“Tawera has touched on the personal things he wanted to get out of it. For me, it was just to reconnect with my boys. I still miss the game.

 

“I still play it a little bit but not too much. Just enough for me to get my little fix. But to be involved with these gentlemen throughout the show was just what I needed for my mental space.”

One of the main themes of the previous two Match Fit seasons was mental health and the importance of opening up, sharing and being vulnerable. The topic is explored this time around too.

So how do Wiki and Nikau look after their mental health?

“Mental health is a big thing especially with men, you know?,” says Wiki.

“When you’ve been at the highest peak in your professional career and then it’s gone, what do you do?

“So I’ve known a few people that have gone through depression…

“I think most of us, when our footy season finished, it was the ‘How do we adjust to normal life as being the average Joe and not in the limelight?’.

“For me, personally, my beautiful wife was a massive advocate of keeping me busy so we went into the group fitness side of things.

“So when I retired in 2008, I transitioned into going back to school, getting my papers to become a trainer. Now I own a gym with my beautiful wife.

“We have a men’s programme in the gym that we run every fortnight. It’s my cousin and I trying to get men to open up more and not bottle things up and turn to the drink or whatever.”

Nikau, who is based in the Waikato, credits farming as helping his mental health.

“When you’re farming you’re out every day,” he says.

“You’re exercising, you’re doing a lot of physical stuff – just keeping me on that training. I’m involved with our marae quite a bit.

“As Ruben said, we’ve all been through our challenges, we’ve all had different things and you’ll get to see a lot of that in the show.”

Match Fit: League Legends, Three, from Wednesday April 12.

As seen on https://www.stuff.co.nz

 

It’s no wonder Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, who’ll play fullback against the Sharks on Sunday, has one of the biggest smiles at the Warriors this season.

Everything is going good for the 27-year-old. He’s playing well for a winning team and enjoying being around his family away from the footy field.

But turn the clock back to a time last season and it was a very different story.

 

He picked up a high hamstring injury playing for the Raiders against the Rabbitohs in May, after being the team’s regular fullback up until then.

By July, and still injured, it was announced the Raiders would release him from the last year of his contract to join the Warriors in 2023.

 

When he got back on the footy field later that month, he made an appearance for the Raiders in the New South Wales Cup. And that’s where he stayed for the remainder of his time at the club.

He’d gone from being the first choice No 1, to on the outer at a club he’d given his all for, over four seasons.

While he’s enjoying life now, he reflects that it was a tough end to his time in Canberra.

“It was hard, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t,” Nicoll-Klokstad said.

“Towards the back end of my stint there, I was really wanting to finish on a high with the Raiders and to not be able to get that opportunity was gutting.

“But we had a good captain in Jarrod Croker, who’s a legend of the club, and he was playing reserve grade at that time.

“He was coming into training every day with a smile on his face and trying to get the boys up for their game.

“If a legend of the club can go down to reserve grade with a smile on his face, come back and try to get the boys up, then what should make me any different?”

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart stuck with Xavier Savage as his fullback for the remainder of last season, and it raised the question whether Nicoll-Klokstad was being punished for wanting to return to the Warriors.

“It’s a hard one. Ricky Stuart picks his team on what he believes is best for the club and he thought it was better to go another way,” Nicoll-Klokstad said.

 

“There was nothing I could have done or said to have changed that. But I couldn’t kick stones around and I really enjoyed my time down at NSW Cup.

“There were a couple of boys there who are going to have a really good NRL career and it was cool to rub shoulders with them.”

Being stuck playing reserve grade footy meant it looked like Nicoll-Klokstad would have no chance of playing for the Kiwis at the World Cup at the end of last season.

With so many quality players available, New Zealand coach Michael Maguire could have easily looked elsewhere. But he wasn’t shaken in his belief that Nicoll-Klokstad was the man he wanted.

“It was a massive highlight,” Nicoll-Klokstad said.

“To play for the Kiwis is one thing, but to play for them at a World Cup is another.

“For myself, there was massive doubt. I didn’t think I’d be an option or even have a look in for the team.

“But I’d have to give full credit to Michael Maguire, he was massive for me throughout that whole stint, even that first time I dropped down to reserve grade.

 

“He was calling me, telling me to play my game and why I made the Kiwis team in the first place.

“He gave me that confidence I needed to kick on and I thought I did that, until I got injured.

“But once again, he came through and called me and we had the same conversations, for me to do what I could do and look after the process, then the outcome will take care of itself.”

If anyone had any doubts whether Nicoll-Klokstad was still able to play at the NRL level after being cast aside at the Raiders last year. Those fears quickly evaporated in his superb performance in the season opener, where he scored a try in the comeback win over the Knights.

He admits it hasn’t always been plain sailing over his career, but he’s gone through it all by giving everything he has and always trying to keep that smile on his face.

“If I’m being honest, it’s been a journey,” he said.

“There were times when you feel like your back is against the wall and you’re trying to fight your way out.

“But being back home has been so refreshing for me and being under Andrew Webster as well, myself and a lot of the boys have said we haven’t felt like we’ve learnt this much about training and playing footy in a long time.

“That’s exciting for us, we’re really enjoying the change and enjoying getting to learn more about the game as an individual player.”

As seen on https://www.stuff.co.nz

 

Nearly 15 years after dragging his big brother Jesse to training in Melbourne, Kenny Bromwich was cooking him a celebration dinner ahead of his 300th NRL game.

The Dolphins skipper will notch the milestone against St George-Illawarra on Saturday, one he admits felt impossible to reach as a “late blooming” teenager well off the radar of clubs and managers.

It was Kenny who the Storm were keen on in 2008 with 19-year-old Jesse dragged along to training “just to watch”.

But Parramatta coach Brad Arthur, Melbourne’s under-20s coach at the time, urged him to put some boots on.

He impressed, was selected to play in their final game of that campaign and was then named NYC prop of the year when the Storm won the title the next season.

The pair then forged brilliant NRL careers in Melbourne and have hit the ground running for the 3-1 Dolphins in the new club’s exhilarating debut.

“We got asked the question in pre-season, ‘What are you most proud of’,” Jesse Bromwich said on Wednesday.

“In rugby league, it was that I’ve been able to spend my whole career playing alongside my brother.

“He got me my start … I never had a club [chasing him], wasn’t 16 and signed to a manager.

“I didn’t get a look-in until I was about 19. Grateful to turn up at the right place at the right time and took it with two hands and ran as far as I could.”

Kenny “got the Weber (BBQ) out and bought some expensive steaks and said a couple of words” at a family dinner on Tuesday night that touched the Dolphins skipper.

“We don’t really do formal things like that, so it was really special,” the 33-year-old captain said.

“I’m very proud … it means a hell of a lot to myself and my family.

“I’m super grateful to Melbourne Storm for giving me a chance and helping me become the person I wanted to become.

“And to the Redcliffe Dolphins for the opportunity … to try something different and do something really special for a different place and community.”

Meanwhile hooker Jeremy Marshall-King has extended his contract with the club for a further year, until 2025.

The New Zealand international will return from a two-week suspension this week, in a boost given his hot form in the opening fortnight.

New Zealand Rugby League mourns the loss of Allan Glasgow who passed away last week.
Allan was an active member of the Glenfield Greyhounds Rugby League Club as a Player, Coach, Manager and Trainer. Allan was a trainer for the Junior Kiwis and New Zealand Warriors in the 90s.
Allan passed away at the age of 68. A service is being held for Allan on Friday 31 March 23, 1.30pm at Romaleigh Chapel, 31 Ocean View Road, Northcote, Auckland.

As seen on https://www.newshub.co.nz

Former NZ Sevens representative Will Warbrick has scored his first try in the NRL, as Melbourne Storm outclassed Wests Tigers 24-12 at AAMI Park.

Warbrick, 25, traded sevens for rugby league at the end of 2021, after helping New Zealand to silver at the Tokyo Olympics.

After signing with the Storm and spending 2022 learning the game, the winger has started all Melbourne’s first-grade matches this year, after impressing supercoach Craig Bellamy in pre-season.

Warbrick has taken his next step towards becoming a regular first-teamer, holding off Tigers opposite Junior Tupou to cross in the corner for the opening try and his first points in the 13-man code.

As well as his try, Warbrick also made 21 runs for 202 metres, two linebreaks, two offloads, three tackles and three intercepts for his night’s work.

Further first half tries to fullback Nick Meaney, Justin Olam and Cameron Munster gave the Storm a 22-6 halftime lead, before an additional Meaney penalty were Melbourne’s only points in the second half.

For the Tigers, centre Asu Kepaoa and hooker Api Koroisau scored either side of halftime, but their efforts weren’t enough to seriously challenge the Storm on the night.

Victory moves Melbourne to eighth on the NRL ladder, with two wins and two defeats to start the 2023 season.

Meanwhile, the Tigers are bottom, with four defeats from four and winless since the end of last July.

As seen on https://www.nrl.com

At 32 years of age Shaun Johnson is the first to tell you the days of his dazzling footwork are mostly gone, but on Sunday he wound back the clock with a trademark run to score the match-winning try against the Bulldogs.

In a throwback to the type of plays he built his game around when he burst onto the NRL scene in the early 2010s, Johnson bamboozled the Canterbury-Bankstown defence with a dummy and swerve to score the final try in a 16-14 victory.

Mixed in with that flash of the old was plenty of the new ‘SJ’ too, which so far this year has included being a much-improved defender, and against the Dogs the No.7 had to pull off a string of crucial tackles to help prevent tries.

“I thought he owned the [big] moments today, Shaun. Defensively I thought he was great, he took the moments and he won us the game,” Warriors coach Andrew Webster said.

“Shaun’s toughness is what’s most important for us, the way he’s tackling, the way he handled [Viliame] Kikau today I thought was unbelievable. His marker work to go and chase people, if there’s a loose ball he’s fighting for it.

“His kicking game was the difference, and that try.”

Johnson made 20 tackles without a miss against the Bulldogs and his efforts in Round 4 sum up the improvements the club has made off the ball since Webster took over at the end of last year.

“I feel really confident in my defence, I feel like we are solving a lot collectively, which is helping me individually,” Johnson said.

“I have got an emphasis on my defence. It’s not long ago, I haven’t forgotten it, Round 1, the first try of the season was through my inside shoulder, so I know how quickly it can turn.

While there was plenty to like about the win, which sees the Warriors move to a 3-1 record, another sluggish start which saw them leak eight points in as many minutes to open the game has left Webster with plenty to think about ahead of this week’s trip to face the in-form Sharks.

The Warriors have now given up the first try in all four of their games this season.

“It’s like they all want that to happen so they get a bit of blood in the water or something,” Webster joked.

“If you don’t laugh you cry. It’s killing us. We have got to fix it because you just can’t compete like that.

“I actually don’t know [what to do to fix it]. I have addressed it every week, the boys have addressed it, they’ve got a positive attitude, it’s gonna have to click.”

As seen on https://www.nrl.com

Some of the locals reckon the secret sits in the ironsand deposits which dust this tiny village each time a breath of wind flows in from the Tasman Sea.

Others say it’s simply because there’s little else to do in this isolated part of the world except pick up a ball and play with your friends.

Whatever the secret is, the village of Tahāroa, home to a lone shop and roughly 171 people, punches well above its weight when it comes to producing elite sporting talent.

Last Saturday night, as Tahāroa exports Te Maire Martin and Taine Tuaupiki played key roles in the Warriors’ victory over the Cowboys, the town basked in the temporary glory of being the rugby league capital of the world.

‘Everyone here is whānau’

Most of the people who live in Tahāroa (or Tahaaroa in the local dialect) are directly related to Te Maire or Taine, who themselves are whānau (family).

If you somehow don’t share a bloodline, you know them and their families well enough that it feels like it anyway.

It’s no surprise then that the pair’s first game together, which was Taine’s NRL debut and Te Maire’s third game as a Warrior, was the talk of the town, and it quickly becomes clear how immensely proud they are of their boys.

“A place this small having two NRL players in the same team? It doesn’t happen,” Brendon King, the owner of the pub in neighbouring Kawhia tells NRL.com.

The Tuaupiki grandparents, Morris and Maureen, had a busy week fielding congratulatory calls after news broke of the impending debut for their mokopuna (grandchild).

At first it was a particularly strange experience for Morris, an old school no-nonsense type who made his living as a shearer and fitter-welder prior to retiring.

“We’ve been trying not to go out,” he tells NRL.com with a smile.

“They were all ringing us up, but you have got to be humble. But yeah, I was really rapt, I don’t say much, but I was really rapt.”

Even when both players moved to Australia in pursuit of their NRL dream years ago, the Tahāroa connection was vitally important, with Te Maire making a home away from home in Sydney with a shared uncle and aunty on the Tuaupiki side.

“His aunty and uncle, which is my aunty and uncle as well, they took me in when I was at the Tigers in the U-20s and I sort of needed that family support,” Te Maire says.

“I owe his family a lot. It’s good to see him get a game, he’s worked so hard for it.

“It’s a lot more special when you get to play for your home side or for your country, and that’s what it feels like for the Warriors.”

Te Maire and Taine aren’t the only top sporting talents to come from Tahāroa, with New Zealand women’s rugby union representative Tenika Willison and former Māori All Black Jackson Willison also hailing from the village.

A place made for rugby league

Sitting on the extreme limb of New Zealand’s West Coast, Tahāroa boasts the largest deposits of ironsand (titanomagnetite) in New Zealand, which is used in the production of steel.

The town is built on the mining business and prior to ironsand exploration starting in 1968 the town didn’t even have road access.

It employs most of the area’s working people and almost all of the local league team – which is named the Steelers in a nod to the industry.

In Tahāroa, rugby league is the game and has been since 2012 when the club was formed, with no other senior sport in the town.

This year, the Steelers will field two men’s sides and a women’s side, which is brimming with numbers to the point it could almost be split into two teams.

Not all of the players reside in Tahāroa or anywhere near the town for that matter, with many travelling up to an hour from neighbouring districts in order to represent the Steelers.

“It adds a bit more meaning playing here, playing for home,” Steelers prop Jack Maikuku says.

The geographical makeup of the squad, and the fact that they almost all work at the mine, makes organising the season a nightmare.

Players have to race each other to secure time off from work, with some inevitably missing out, and trainings are often not well attended, but still they make it work.

When a favourite son returned

After Te Maire Martin was cleared to play again, following the discovery of a brain bleed which forced him to step away from his NRL career in 2020, he could have gone to any rugby league club he wanted.

But he chose to stay in Tahāroa and play with his people, a decision which sums up how important this town and club are to the local people.

The return of a recent Kiwi international and NRL player to the club scene was obviously big news, and Martin carried a huge target with him each time he took the field, with plenty keen to get one over him.

They couldn’t and didn’t.

Martin was the best player in the local Waikato competition with ball in hand, and in defence he made a habit of humbling those who tried to steamroll him.

“It just brought out the best in him. He knew it was coming, his teammates knew it was coming, and he thrived because of it,” Steelers co-coach Cliff Willison says.

“He made us all better and elevated us when he was back here. From the players to the coaches.”

Maikuku, who played alongside Te Maire at the Steelers, says his one regret from that season was not being able to fully enjoy it.

“When I had the chance to play with him, I was actually too busy trying to catch my breath”, while adding that their star playmaker refused to divert from the high standards which got him to the NRL in the first place.

“He wasn’t shy to let us know when we got stuff wrong. It was good to pick his brain and learn about how it all works at NRL level.

“I looked at him playing for Brisbane when he went back to the NRL and thought ‘he was yelling at me a couple of months ago!’.

“It was mean to see him go back to the NRL from us, that’s a fairytale story that.”

This Sunday, at the Warriors’ first game in Auckland for the year, Tahāroa will be well represented in the crowd with a large section of both Te Maire and Taine’s whānau, and with that most of the town, heading up to cheer on their boys.

As seen on stuff.co.nz

‘The Iceman’ is back in the form of Dolphins winger Jamayne Isaako, who has credited being coached by Wayne Bennett again for his superb start to the 2023 NRL season.

“I owe Wayne everything. He’s helped bring my confidence back,” Isaako told AAP.

The 26-year-old scored two tries in the Dolphins inaugural 28-18 win over the Sydney Roosters and landed four from four in the 20-14 victory over Canberra in wet and wild conditions at Redcliffe to be the competition’s leading point-scorer after two rounds with 24 points.

In Isaako’s breakout season under Bennett at the Broncos in 2018 he was Dally M rookie of the year and the competition’s leading point-scorer, making history to be the first player to achieve the double.

“Wayne has always backed me. We have a great connection,” Isaako told AAP in the Dolphins sheds after the Raiders win.

“Running out on the field I obviously have full confidence in my coach, but knowing the full confidence he has in me helps me play to the best of my ability.

“Obviously errors were a major concern with me, so Wayne wanted me to eliminate the errors out of my game.

“At the start of this season he had a couple of other boys ahead of me here at the Dolphins but I am not one to kick cans.

“I was willing to work hard and earn another opportunity and I got given my chance in round one.

“I knew I couldn’t disappoint. I went out there and did my best, and more than anything I am just glad we have been able to win both weeks.”

Isaako signed a three-year deal with the Dolphins in December 2021, when he was still at the Broncos, keeping him at the club until the end of 2025.

Three months later he joined the Gold Coast for the rest of 2022. Reuniting with Bennett was a dream come true.

“I didn’t think it was going to happen. I definitely thought that ship had sailed but the opportunity came up when Wayne got appointed head coach here at the Dolphins,” Isaako said.

“I was on my last year of a contract at the Broncos and I thought it was just meant to be.

“I am definitely happy to be back under Wayne again.”

As seen on NRL.com

The Roosters have been at the forefront of conversations around premiership favourites in 2023 but centre Joey Manu said his side must first prove to themselves that they’re worthy of being in that esteemed company.

You might not recognise him at first, with the 26-year-old star set to wear headgear in his return from a pre-season facial fracture, but Manu is determined to help his side bounce back from a nightmare season-opener against the Dolphins.

Injuries before the game and during it may have contributed to the loss but the Golden Boot winner said there’ll be no excuses come Saturday’s home clash with the Warriors.

“Everyone knows the end goal is to win and while we’ve got a good team here… we haven’t proven anything,” Manu said.

 

Manu: 'I'm looking forward to the year'

“There’s a few young boys here and there’s some great leaders but we’ve got to prove to ourselves first of the team we want to be.

“Just playing as a Rooster and playing that style of footy is what we’re trying to chase.

“We’ve had a few injuries and we’ve got a few young boys in there, but I think that’s when we play our best and that’s when we really go after it.”

Manu’s return offers the first look at a potentially dynamic centre pairing with young gun Joseph Suaali’i, who played on the wing in all of his 19 games last year but now shifts closer to the action.

 

Suaalii at home in the centres

The Kiwi International said the pair have forged a close friendship during their time at the club and have worked hard to help each other develop in the role.

“You see what he does on the field but he’s just scratching the surface there. He’s someone that wants to get better everyday and that’s what I really like about him,” Manu said.

“It’s good to see him in the centre position, I feel like it’s always been a solid position in rugby league where you can really battle opponents and I know he’ll be up there with the best centres so I look forward to seeing how he goes.

“I’m always trying to help him out and he’s definitely helping me out too, so it’s been good.”

After missing the Roosters’ sudden-death semi-final last year against Souths last year with a calf injury, Manu will be itching to don the famous red, white and blue for what will be just his second appearance at the refurbished Allianz Stadium.

And coach Robinson said the 2022 Dally M Centry of the Year has given the side every confidence he’s ready to make his mark on the 2023 season.

 

Manu the magnificent

“I know from what I’ve seen at training and the confidence he’s got from attacking the physical parts of the training,” Robinson told the media on Friday.

“I’ve seen him in the wrestle room, I’ve seen him on the field, so I feel like he’s ready to go.”

Robinson was adamant there’d be no major changes to the game plan despite some uncharacteristic errors in the loss to the Dolphins.

“We weren’t happy with the way we played on the weekend but the thing is you’ve got to fix some things but you don’t need to jump at shadows,” he said.

“You’ve got to hold your cool early in the season, fix some things and go after it.

“We’re still focused on how we want to start this year and that’s no different so don’t get too concerned too early about one game.”

As seen on https://www.stuff.co.nz

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad made a wonderful return to the Warriors on Friday night, scoring and saving tries in the 20-12 win over the Knights in Wellington.

After spending the last four years at the Raiders, the fullback was outstanding in his team’s gritty win that showed new coach Andrew Webster has already stamped his mark at the club.

The 27-year-old was class at the back and made amends for an early error to put in a performance that was up there with the ones Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had in the No 1 jersey a couple of years ago.

This was the start of a new era for the Warriors, Webster wanted to toughen them up and get rid of the ‘same old Warriors’ mentality when it came to not being able to grind out wins.

The squad had been given an impressive overhaul, with experienced players brought in and going up against a side like the Knights, who aren’t expected to feature in the top eight this season, they were perfect opposition.

But there were 16 other teams feeling good about themselves before they played their first game this weekend and Warriors’ optimism didn’t last long.

Nicoll-Klokstad turned over the ball in the opening minute and Lachlan Fitzgibbon then brushed through a tackle by Shaun Johnson to score the opening try.

It was a scrappy first half, played in front of 16,676 spectators, with both teams making errors and struggling to get try scoring opportunities.

But with 15 minutes of the period to Mitch Barnett made a great break up the middle, Johnson threw a peach of a pass out wide to Ed Kosi, who was a late replacement for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, and scored in the corner.

A few minutes later the Warriors hit the lead with Bunty Afoa charging in after taking a ball from Wayde Egan at dummy half.

The Knights had back to back sets close to the Warriors’ line early in the second half and when the ball was moved to the left edge Hymel Hunt found himself with all the space he needed to score.

In the 51st minute the Warriors scored the best try of the game, with Brayden Wiliame finding some space to make a long run, then popping a pass to Nicoll-Klokstad, who still had plenty of ground to cover before reaching the try line.

Phoenix Crossland was sin binned in the 57th minute for not being square at the marker as the Warriors were under the Knights’ posts and from the next play Egan had his head slammed in a tackle and needed to go off for a HIA.

It was the fourth penalty in a row the Knights had given away inside their 10m line but they didn’t concede any points from it as on the last tackle Te Maire Martin grubbered the ball straight to Jackson Hastings.

It was then the Knights’ turn to have all the pressure and there was some outstanding goal line defence from Nicoll-Klokstad and Kosi to keep them out.

The Warriors sealed the game when Egan took on the defence from a ruck a few metres from the line and went over.

 

As seen on https://www.nrl.com

 

Raiders skipper Elliott Whitehead has full confidence in centre Seb Kris to handle the fullback position in Saturday’s season opener against the Cowboys.

With regular fullback Xavier Savage set to be sidelined for up to eight weeks with a broken jaw, coach Ricky Stuart had a choice between Kris and Kiwi veteran Jordan Rapana to wear the No.1 jersey.

After being named at centre for the Raiders’ second Pre-season Challenge match against Wests Tigers, Kris shifted to fullback but had limited opportunities to shine with five runs for 43 metres.

Kris enjoyed a fine season in the centres in 2022 with 14 tries and 12 line breaks but Whitehead is adamant the 23-year-old has found confidence training at fullback in recent weeks and can make a big impact with his talk.

“I thought he was really good in that first half, obviously a different role for him at fullback but he fits in there really well and the more he trains and plays there the more comfortable he’s going to get,” Whitehead told the media.

“He’s had another good week there at training and we’re making him talk a lot more so he’s getting a lot louder and more confident out the back.

“It is a hard role but he’s a fit kid and his talk is starting to get there now as well so you can feel him getting a lot more confident in that role. I’m sure he’ll fit in very well and get better and better each week.

 

As seen on https://www.stuff.co.nz

 

Kiwis Te Maire Martin, Charnze Nicoll-Klockstad and Marata Niukore have been named in the starting line-up for the Warriors in their opening NRL clash for the season against the Newcastle Knights in Wellington on Friday night.

Martin has played 68 games for Penrith, North Queensland and Brisbane, but will make his Warriors NRL debut at Sky Stadium, teaming up with Shaun Johnson in the halves.

He is one of six off-season signings to make their first NRL appearances for the Warriors, while a seventh player, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, resumes his career for the club after 66 matches for the Canberra Raiders over the past four seasons.

The others are Brayden Wiliame, who will start in the centres after a career that has taken in matches for Parramatta, Manly Warringah and St George Illawarra; former Newcastle prop Mitchell Barnett; second rowers Jackson Ford, from St George Illawarra and Kiwis international Marata Niukore; and utility Dylan Walker, who has made 186 appearances for the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles.

 

As seen on https://www.stuff.co.nz

 

Forget the flashy highlight reel tries, the freakish speed and step, Shaun Johnson, now 32, is a different player and person to that fresh-faced kid who lit the NRL up in 2011.

But the Warriors’ halfback doesn’t see that as him going backward, far from it, he believes 2023 – his 13th in the NRL – can be one of his best seasons yet, even if it’s in a different role from how he made his name.

Ahead of Friday’s season opener against the Newcastle Knights in Wellington, Johnson says he’s still growing and improving.

“Obviously with me, coming into the league I was the flairy, fast, steppy guy and now everyone’s going “he doesn’t have the speed,” Johnson said on Monday.

A fact Johnson, who re-joined his junior club from the Sharks last season, doesn’t debate but also refuses to be defined by.

“I think as you get a bit older you probably get a bit stronger in the head, you adjust your game, you learn to play to your strengths and what suits the team around you.”

One of the most polarising figures in the club’s history, Johnson’s talk of a big season will fall flat with some Warriors fans until they see some deeds to back up the words.

Last year was far from his best and the veteran of 227 NRL matches has, at times, been plagued by inconsistency, claims that he goes missing in games, and no longer takes the defensive line on with his running game – now the once electric speed isn’t quite what it was.

“That might frustrate people at times when they don’t see the highlights stuff that they want to see,” Johnson said.

“For me, I’m continuing to grow, I’m continuing to learn, just in different areas.”

Johnson, who confirmed he will be in the halves alongside Te Maire Martin when Andrew Webster names his first team on Tuesday, is no stranger to the weight of expectation.

“Those things get put on my shoulders most years but I think for myself, it’s a pretty privileged position to be in.

“And if that means for some reason it’s not the accolades or the highlights or whatever but we’re winning, that’s fine by me,” Johnson said.

“Whatever it takes to win.

“We don’t roll through these doors and want to improve every day not to win and that’s what we want to do.”

With maturity, the former Kiwis halfback now understands who his most important critics are.

“The only opinions I probably really care about are the ones of the boys downstairs, that’s all that really matters to me, so I’m driven to prove myself to them and I’m driven to prove to myself that I still belong in this arena.

“I’ve still got something to offer, because I’m still getting better.”

Webster has challenged Johnson to think about how he wants his legacy to be remembered at the club and it has inspired him to be hungry to re-establish himself at Mt Smart.

“It’s probably something I never thought about until the question was asked,” Johnson said.

“I never played my career thinking about how am I going to be remembered, I’ve just played it in the moment.”

A major part of Johnson’s 2023 confidence comes from having his first full pre-season in years, after missing the Kiwis squad for last year’s World Cup, and training injury free before Christmas. Factors that have seen him tip the scales at more than 2kg lighter than his playing weight in recent seasons.

There will always be doubters but Johnson said the support of genuine fans also matters to the playing group.

“We’ve got a real chance this year to re-establish ourselves back here and connect with our fans, which we haven’t been able to do and inspire some of the young Kiwi kids coming through.”

The much-maligned halfback has also copped plenty of criticism when it hasn’t always been warranted too.

Johnson was unexpectedly isolated from his family during the 2022 NRL season, including his wife Kayla and young daughter Millah, when the Warriors remained in Australia because of the surge in Covid-19 cases from the Delta variant.

“Being home, being around family, being able to be a dad, being able to see my mum, my dad, friends, all the stuff that you probably take for granted when you’ve never not had it, so it has certainly been the key factor,” Johnson said of his pre-season.

As seen on https://www.nrl.com

Dolphins captain Jesse Bromwich is hoping the emotion of yet another ‘first’ for the club will be behind his team when the side run out for their opening round match against the Roosters in Round 1.

While it was a long build up for fans to see their team finally hit the field, for the players that went down to the Gold Coast Titans in their Round 2 Pre-season Challenge match at Kayo Stadium, the preparations have been comparatively short, with full squad only training together for six weeks before the game.

“It felt surreal; felt like a long time coming,” Bromwich told media following the game about running out in front of a home crowd for the first time.

“I think it’s a bit of emotion running out (tonight), hopefully we’ve got that out of the way and we’ll look on to a very tough game against the Roosters.

“It’s our first game here and running out to a packed-out Kayo Stadium, it’s really nice, a lot of the fans are sticking around and you can see they all love the place and they’ve been a part of this place for a long time.

“We’re obviously the first NRL side, but this club has been here for a long time, so it’s nice to be part of a bit of history for this club.”

Since the start of pre-season training late last year, the Dolphins have been busy off of the field as well, with preparations for their inaugural season in the NRL involving more than just getting players on the field.

Their recent club season launch saw the official unveiling of Bromwich as their captain, while during this past week; club representatives and the full top squad of players attended the launch of Stan’s three-part documentary series ‘Dawn of the Dolphins’, outlining how the club came to be the first expansion club in the NRL since the Titans in 2007 and the build-up to their first official game.

Speaking at the launch, club CEO Terry Reader said the important thing for him was “the ability to tell our story, which isn’t about wins and losses, it’s about what went on to build a club inside 12 months”.

However, the club will be judged on their on-field performances and captain Bromwich didn’t shy away from the hard work needed following their 40-16 loss to the Gold Coast.

It seemed the occasion did overawe the players who were slow off the mark from the kick-off, allowing three quick tries within the opening 11 minutes in the game to put the whole side on the backfoot, with Jack Bostock’s try late in the first half preventing too many blushes.

“I didn’t like the way we started in both halves, we gave up too much possession with our penalties and our completion rate … I think a few of our guys did fairly well, but we played like a team where this was our first game together and I think it showed,” Bromwich said.

“Of course we need to be better; we’re not really happy with the way we performed, but we’ll take the positives out of what we’ve done.

“Obviously, there’s a few things we need to work on, some of our defence and our edge defence there was pretty leaky at times, but we’ll go back with the video and work extremely hard … to make that better.

“We had a decent pre-season, (but) obviously … we didn’t want to play that way and that’s not how we prepared to play.

“I think it probably wasn’t ideal for the club having six guys coming back after Christmas [following the Rugby League World Cup] and (we) probably would have liked to have gotten together before that, but it is what it is, that’s past.

“But we know what we need to work on and we’ll go and work really hard at doing that. It’s our first game together; we had a very short preseason together (and) we’re only going to get better from here.

“This this going to probably be a tough game to watch back, but one that’s needed and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

As seen on https://www.nrl.com

A Selwyn Cobbo hat-trick propelled the Indigenous All Stars to a 28-24 victory over a gutsy Māori All side in the Saturday’s NRL Harvey Norman All Stars clash in Rotorua.

Cobbo scored his three tries in the space of 12 minutes in the final quarter of the match to help his side overcome a Māori outfit who led for the opening 44 minutes and fought back to make it a one-score game with two minutes to go.

Halfback Nicho Hynes was at the heart of the win for Ronald Griffiths’ side, scoring a try and then setting one up either side of half-time to claim the Preston Campbell Medal as player of the match.

With the Māori leading 18-16 with 20 minutes to go, Cobbo took it upon himself to put his side ahead with a try that showed off all of his athletic talent, before grabbing another two in quick succession to put the result beyond doubt.

A spirited pre-match Indigenous war cry was met with a stunning haka – performed to a chorus of cheers from most of the 17,644 fans in attendance – it was a nervous drop from Cobbo on his first touch which gifted the Māori with the opening try.

After the Indigenous hit back through Tyrell Sloan, who grabbed onto a Brent Naden flick pass, Cobbo left a try begging when he dropped the ball with an open line in front of him.

The sides then traded converted tries to Jesse Arthars and Hynes to leave the Māori up 12-10 at the half-time, with Josh Kerr being sent to the sin bin just before the break for a high contact with his shoulder on James Fisher-Harris.

But the numerical disadvantage did little to hurt the Indigenous side, who scored four minutes into the second half, with Hynes again at the heart of it with a break which ended in Naden crossing.

Jordan Riki’s try stopped the rot temporarily, before Cobbo took over the game with his treble.

A late try to Preston Riki did reduce the gap to four, but wasn’t enough to change the result.

As seen on https://www.nrl.com

After appearing in 30 top-flight games in a season which stretched over 10 months for him last year, James Fisher-Harris could have been forgiven for thinking about giving this week’s NRL Harvey Norman All Stars clash a miss.

In total the 27-year-old’s workload last year included over 4300 running metres and 908 tackles, as he helped the Panthers to a second-straight Telstra Premiership title, in addition to earning representative honours with the Māori All Stars and Kiwis.

25th January 2023

The first ever NRL Harvey Norman All Stars in New Zealand will feature Premiership and representative stars alongside some of the best up-and-coming talent in the men’s and women’s games, as the NRL today announced the teams for the showcase at Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday 11 February.

The home crowd will see Māori superstars including Joseph Manu, James Fisher-Harris, Joseph Tapine and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, up against visiting Indigenous All Stars including Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, Nicho Hynes and Selwyn Cobbo.

The Harvey Norman Women’s All Stars will feature Māori stars including Kennedy Cherrington, Zahara Temara and Olivia Kernick, taking on an Indigenous line-up that includes the likes of Shaylee Bent, Caitlan Johnston and Jaime Chapman.

The women’s and men’s matches will follow a curtain-raiser between the Māori and Indigenous All Stars Touch Football teams.

Tickets are available from NZD$40 for adults and NZD$85 for families via nrl.com/tickets.

 

 

Maori All Stars (Men)

Jesse Arthars

Daejarn Asi

Nelson Asofa-Solomona

Zach Dockar-Clay

James Fisher-Harris

Corey Harawira-Naera

Morgan Harper

Royce Hunt

Joseph Manu

Zane Musgrove

Briton Nikora

Hayze Perham

Adam Pompey

Jordan Rapana

Jordan Riki

Joseph Tapine

Starford Toa

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

Dylan Walker

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak

Coach: Ben Gardiner

Indigenous All Stars (Men)

Josh Addo-Carr

Bailey Butler

Selwyn Cobbo

Tyrell Fuimaono

J’maine Hopgood

Nicho Hynes

Ryan James

Josh Kerr

Ezra Mam

Latrell Mitchell

Shaquai Mitchell

Kierran Moseley

Brent Naden

Tyrone Peachey

Tyrell Sloan

Chris Smith

Will Smith

Jamayne Taunoa-Brown

Cody Walker

Jack Wighton

Coach: Ronald Griffiths

 

 

 

Maori All Stars (Women)

Brooke Anderson

Destiny Brill

Gayle Broughton

Harata Butler

Kahu Cassidy

Kennedy Cherrington

Laikha Clarke

Zali Fay

Mya Hill-Moana

Olivia Kernick

Shannon Mato

Capri Paekau

Aaliyah Paki

Shanice Parker

Ashleigh Quinlan

Tiana Raftstrand-Smith

Jasmin Strange

Zahara Temara

Kailey Thompson

Amy Turner

Coach: Keith Hanley

 

 

Indigenous All Stars (Women)

Essay Banu

Shaylee Bent

Jaime Chapman

Bree Chester

Kirra Dibb

Quincy Dodd

Taliah Fuimaono

Tallisha Harden

Caitlan Johnston

Keilee Joseph

Bobbi Law

Mia Middleton

Sareka Mooka

Jasmine Peters

Kaitlyn Phillips

Shaniah Power

Jada Taylor

Tahlulah Tillett

Coach: Ben Jeffries

 

All Stars matches will be broadcast live on the Nine Network, Fox League, Kayo and Sky Sport NZ.

19 January 2023

Adam Blair knows from personal experience the significance of wearing the Māori jersey and wants to see a full house for the NRL Harvey Norman All Stars: Māori v Indigenous clash in Rotorua in February.

The former Kiwi and NZ Māori player and fellow former Kiwi league star, Isaac Luke, were recently announced as assistant coaches, alongside head coach Benny Gardiner, for the Māori All Stars.

Blair who hails from Te Tai Tokerau, played for 14 years in the NRL and has worn both the Kiwi and Māori jerseys says he is looking forward to returning to Rotorua, this time as assistant coach. Both he and Luke played for the Kiwis in the one-off test against Tonga in Rotorua in 2009.

“First and foremost, I’m really privileged and honoured to be named as an assistant coach. From afar, I have always wanted to be a part of it, once I had finished up playing. I’ve played a couple of times for the Māori All Stars and I really loved my time back then.

“But for me now [as an assistant coach], it is actually the most nervous I have been in a long time because it has become a reality to coach, and to coach Māori at this level is what I have always wanted to do.”

Blair is encouraging Rotorua locals to get behind the event and come support all the teams taking part, especially the Indigenous All Stars.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring this game home and display our people, our culture and what it means to us. I know the Indigenous All Stars are really excited to come over as well and experience our culture.”

New Zealand Māori Rugby League chairman John Devonshire says the Harvey Norman NRL All-Stars will “kick 2023 off in a positive light”.

The exciting clash of cultures between New Zealand Māori and the Australian Indigenous men’s and women’s teams is happening on Saturday, 11 February 2023, at the Rotorua International Stadium.

It will be the first time the event will take place outside of Australia, and Devonshire says Rotorua was the perfect location.

“You could ask any league player or supporter from Rotorua the significance of having a game like this in Rotorua. It’s a great opportunity and a game of this magnitude is good for the city.

Devonshire, whose whakapapa is Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa says the recent appointments of Blair and Luke showed that New Zealand Māori Rugby League was looking to the future.

“There are no more passionate Māori warriors than these two and they will soak it up and they will learn. The other beauty of Benny’s appointment is that they will learn from Benny and, in terms of a succession plan, they are it.”

Coaches for the Māori women’s indigenous team are Keith Hanley (Ngāpuhi) assisted by John Strange (Ngāpuhi), who was with the Sydney Roosters NRLW, and manager Stephaine Spooner (Ngāti Kahungunu).

Prior to the kick-off of the main event between the Aotearoa New Zealand Māori versus Australian Indigenous All Stars, fans will be treated to a mixed touch game between the Māori All Stars and Australian Indigenous All Stars as well as a league clash between the New Zealand Māori Women and the Australian Indigenous Women’s All Stars.

Details can be found here.

Gates open at 1.15pm and the main game kicks-off at 5.45pm. Tickets are on sale now at Ticketmaster click here.

20 Dec 2022
NZRL mourns the loss of Kiwi #545 Gasetoa Fepulea’i – known as Gus or Toa – who passed away last week. 
Fepuleai represented New Zealand on the 1978 tour of Australia and Papua New Guinea. Though he was unable to force his way into the Test team, the centre/winger enjoyed a fruitful trip with four tries in eight minor tour matches.
Born in Western Samoa, Fepulea’i attended Seddon High School (now Western Springs College) and made an immediate impact on the Auckland Rugby League scene with Richmond Rovers, taking out the 1976 Tetley Trophy as the competition’s top tryscorer. He broke into the Auckland team in 1978 before earning Kiwis selection and played at provincial level until 1982.
Further Kiwis call-ups eluded Felupeai but he twice turned out against the 1979 Great Britain Lions, for Auckland and New Zealand Māori.
Felupea’i helped Richmond to its drought-breaking 1979-80 Fox Memorial triumphs. Finishing his club career with stints at Glenora and Manukau, he later served as the Rovers’ chairman and was a much-admired servant of the club.
NZRL extends its heartfelt condolences to Toa’s friends and family.

14th December 2022 

 

Off the back of impressive international seasons and Golden Boot accolades, Joseph Manu [Kiwi #815] and Raecene McGregor [Kiwi Fern #140] have both been awarded Player of the Year for 2022. 

 

Breakout performances at debut World Cup campaigns see Dylan Brown and Brianna Clark take home the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year awards, while an outstanding 2022 season sees Ronaldo Mulitalo [Kiwi #824] earn Kiwis Young Player of the Year. 

 

Manu ended the 2022 season solidifying his status as one of the best players in rugby league. He impressed at fullback for the Kiwis, playing out of his usual Dally M centre position, earning MVP of three out of six Kiwis’ internationals for the year. The Tokoroa star ran a world record 401 metres in the Kiwis’ mid-season Test against Tonga and ran more than 300 metres in each of his five World Cup appearances, scoring three tries.  

 

Kiwis’ Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “Joey is a special player and has made his mark as one of the best in the world. 

 

“In a year that’s seen him take home a Dally M, a Golden Boot and now the Player of the Year for his country, he’s well on his way to becoming one of the great Kiwi players.” 

 

Raecene McGregor [Kiwi Fern #140] has earned herself Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year after a spectacular 2022 season. The premier half claimed the 2022 Dally M award and the prestigious Golden Boot to cement her place as one of the best in the world. McGregor led the Kiwi Ferns to a World Cup final and scored three tries with seven try-assists and six line-breaks throughout her international season. 

 

Kiwi Ferns’ Head Coach Ricky Henry says, “Rae is one of those rare players, a leader and a playmaker who’s the best in her position. 

 

“Having her in our campaigns gave the girls a lot of confidence. Her ability to manage a game effectively and make players around her play well are special talents. She’s had a fantastic year and I can’t think of anyone more deserving.”  

 

Dylan Brown [Kiwi #826] has been named the Kiwis Rookie of the Year after an outstanding international season in the Black and White. In June, he debuted for the Kiwis in front of a sold-out Mt Smart Stadium, where he produced two try-assists, 94 metres, and 27 tackles in the 26-6 victory against Tonga. The 22-year-old went on to feature in four matches at the RLWC, scoring his first Test try against Lebanon and dotting down again in a standout individual performance in the valiant semi-final loss to Australia. 

 

Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “Dylan has had an outstanding year full of career milestones, and he’s only just getting started.  

 

“He is an integral member of our Kiwi spine alongside last year’s Player of the Year, Jahrome Hughes. As they spend more time together in the Kiwi jersey, they’re well on their way to becoming one of the strongest pairings in Test football.”  

 

Brianna Clark [Kiwi Fern #164] has taken home Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year after a breakout Rugby League World Cup campaign for the Kiwi Ferns.  

 

Clark was a standout, kicking seven goals across the opening two pool wins against France and Cook Islands despite starting on the bench. She came into the front row for the group-stage classic against Australia and scored a try in the semi-final defeat of England taking the Ferns to the World Cup final. 

 

Head Coach Ricky Henry says, “Bri was instrumental for us; she stood out in every game she played. 

 

“She led from the front, put her body on the line and brought energy and momentum to every play. She’s a special player and we’re lucky to have her in our squad.” 

 

Ronaldo Mulitalo [Kiwi #824] has been awarded Kiwis Junior Player of the Year, an accolade that looks at both NRL and international performance. Mulitalo flourished out wide for a burgeoning Cronulla combination in 2022, producing 30 line-breaks and scoring 17 tries in 24 games (equal-third in the NRL) as the club powered to a top-four finish. 

 

The Ellerslie Eagles junior had a stellar Test debut performance as the Kiwis prevailed 26-6 against Tonga in June. He scored on debut, made two line-breaks and ran for 147 metres. Mulitalo, widely regarded as arguably New Zealand’s No.1 winger then shone on the world cup stage, scoring tries against Ireland and Fiji, before producing a brilliant display in the Kiwis’ gallant semi-final exit, capping off an impressive year for the 22-year-old Kiwi. 

 

Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “We have an exciting group of young Kiwi players and Ronnie is a part of that special group. 

 

He’s a very proud Kiwi, and you could see the passion with which he played when he wore the Black and White jersey. If he keeps on the path he’s going, he can become one of the great wingers of our game.”  

 

New Zealand Rugby League would also like to congratulate Roko Nailolo on taking home the Kiwis Physical Disability Player of the Year.  

 

Roko was sensational at the Physical Disability Rugby League World Cup, scoring a hattrick in 12 minutes against Australia and leading the team to a World Cup final against England. He was an integral playmaker in every game and arguably the best in the competition. 

 

 

 

2022 NZRL AWARD WINNERS  

 

Kiwis Player of the Year – Joseph Manu 

Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year – Raecene McGregor 

Kiwis Physical Disability Player of the Year – Roko Nailolo 

 

Kiwis Rookie of the Year – Dylan Brown 

Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year – Brianna Clark  

Kiwis Young Player of the Year – Ronaldo Mulitalo  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15 November 2022

 

New Zealand’s Joey Manu and Raecene McGregor, and England’s Sebastien Bechara, are the 2022 IRL Golden Boot winners as the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair international player of the year.

Manu, McGregor and Bechara received the Golden Boot awards in Manchester on Tuesday after a comprehensive judging process involving former Test greats, rugby league pioneers and members of the media.

Golden Cap recipient Adrian Morley, who is one of just nine players to have played 50 or more Tests, presented the Men’s Golden Boot to Manu – the sixth Kiwi to win the award since its inception in 1984.

McGregor is the first New Zealander to be awarded the Women’s Golden Boot, which was introduced in 2018 and won by Jillaroos centre Isabelle Kelly, who passed the honour to team-mate Jessica Sergis the following year.

The Wheelchair Golden Boot was introduced in 2019, with Bechara’s England team-mate Jack Brown being the inaugural winner but due to COVID the award has not been presented for the past two years.

Manu has been a revelation at fullback for the Kiwis – a position he doesn’t usually play for the Sydney Roosters – and was a stand-out in the mid-season Test against Tonga, as well as each of New Zealand’s World Cup matches.

Significantly, McGregor and Bechara also played mid-season Tests and their performances helped them to edge out Golden Boot rivals.

“Joey and Raecene have been a standout players for New Zealand this entire year,” said NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

 

“Out of the six Test matches the Kiwis have played, Joey has been MVP of half of those (v Tonga, Lebanon and Fiji) and has been one of our best throughout the World Cup. Raecene was only recently crownded Dally M Player of the Year and to add the best player in the international game to her calibre of awards is outstanding.

 

“Players like Joey and Raecene inspire generations of young Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns coming through at every level. They wear the jersey with pride and play an integral role in our game.

 

“I can’t think of any two more deserving, this is a great day to be a Kiwi and they have both done their countries proud.”

IRL chair Troy Grant said: “The IRL Golden Boot is one of the oldest and most prestigious awards in rugby league, and recognises performances at international level.

“In the past it has been won by some of the greatest players to have played the game, such as Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Ellery Hanley, Andy Farrell, Peter Sterling, Andrew Johns, Benji Marshall, Stacey Jones, Darren Lockyer, Johnathon Thurston and Cameron Smith.

“Now Joey, Raecene and Sebastien join them after each producing a series of outstanding performances for their nations, from the mid-season internationals to the World Cup.

“On behalf of the IRL, I would like to congratulate Joey, Raecene and Sebastien, as well as the players who were selected on the short lists for the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Golden Boot awards.

“In each case, the stand-out performances of the winner in the mid-season Test gave them an edge over other contenders coming into the World Cup, which may have helped to decide the awards.

“I would also like to thank all who helped participate in the judging process, including giants of the international game, Cameron Smith, Honey Hireme-Smiler, James Graham, Karen Murphy and Ruben Wiki.”

Smith (Australia), Graham (England and Great Britain) and Wiki (New Zealand), who are Golden Cap recipients, helped selected Manu as the Men’s Golden Boot winner after a panel of journalists and commentators chose a short list of candidates.

Manu ran a world record 401 metres with the ball in New Zealand’s mid-season Test against Tonga and has ran more than 300 metres in each of his five World Cup appearances.

Kiwis Head Coach Michael Maguire says, “Joey has definitely been a standout this year. He set the bar high in a great mid-year Test match against Tonga and continued on the form throughout the World Cup.

 

“Joey has a big career in the Kiwi jersey ahead of him. If he keeps going the way he is, I’m sure he will get a few more Golden Boots, along with going down as one of the greats for the Kiwis.”

The Women’s Golden Boot was chosen by a panel, which included Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns greats Murphy and Hireme-Smiler, commentator and former England star Danika Priim, refereeing pioneer Julia Lee, and members of the media.

McGregor’s award caps a stunning year for the Kiwi Ferns halfback, who was uncontracted for the postponed 2021 NRLW season until winning player-of-the match for the Māori All Stars.

After helping Sydney Roosters to the NRLW Premiership early in the year, she was awarded the Dally M Medal as the best player of the 2022 NRLW season.

Kiwi Ferns Head Coach Ricky Henry commented, “Rae is a special player, she’s one of those rare players, it’s been a fantastic year for her.

 

“She’s grown in this space not only as a leader but as a playmaker, she’s quality and the best in her position.

 

“Having her in our campaign has given us a lot of confidence not only with her ability to game manage but how she makes the players around her look good too.

 

“To be awarded Golden Boot is a massive achievement considering the amount of high-profile players that have been around the game for a long time.”

The Women’s Golden Boot award was presented to McGregor, who was accompanied by sister and Test team-mate Page, by long serving RFL executive and RLWC2021 director Karen Moorhouse.

Bechara has also been consistently one of the best players every time he has played, starring in England’s mid-season Test win over France, who they will again meet in the World Cup final at Manchester Central on Friday night.

He edged England team-mate Jack Brown, who is based in Australia and did not play the mid-season Test, and France’s Jérémy Bourson.

The IRL Wheelchair Golden Boot was presented by Wheelchair Rugby League pioneer, Malcolm Kielty, MBE, who was on a panel of officials, coaches, referees and members of the media to choose the award.

Short lists:

Men: Josh Addo-Carr (Australia), Jarome Luai (Samoa), Joey Manu (New Zealand), Victor Radley (England), George Williams (England).

Women: Elsie Albert (Papua New Guinea), Tarryn Aiken (Australia), Amber-Paris Hall (New Zealand), Raecene McGregor (New Zealand), Courtney Winfield-Hill (England).

Wheelchair: Sebastien Bechara (England), Jérémy Bourson (France), Jack Brown (England), Nicolas Clausells (France), Diab Karim (Australia).

Golden Boot Winners

MEN’S
1984 Wally Lewis (AUS)
1985 Brett Kenny (AUS)
1986 Garry Jack (AUS)
1987 Hugh McGahan (NZL)
1987 Peter Sterling (AUS)
1988 Ellery Hanley (ENG)
1989 Mal Meninga (AUS)
1992 Garry Schofield (ENG)
1991-98 No award given
1999 Andrew Johns (AUS)
2000 Brad Fittler (AUS)
2001 Andrew Johns (AUS)
2002 Stacey Jones (NZL)
2003 Darren Lockyer (AUS)
2004 Andrew Farrell (ENG)
2005 Anthony Minichiello (AUS)
2006 Darren Lockyer (AUS)
2007 Cameron Smith (AUS)
2008 Billy Slater (AUS)
2009 Greg Inglis (AUS)
2010 Benji Marshall (NZL)
2011 Johnathan Thurston (AUS)
2012 Kevin Sinfield (ENG)
2013 Johnathan Thurston (AUS)
2014 Shaun Johnson (NZL)
2015 Johnathan Thurston (AUS)
2016 Cooper Cronk (AUS)
2017 Cameron Smith (AUS)
2018 Tommy Makinson (ENG)
2019 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (NZL)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Joey Manu (NZL)

WOMEN’S
2018 Isabelle Kelly (AUS)
2019 Jessica Sergis (AUS)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Raecene McGregor (NZL)

WHEELCHAIR
2019 Jack Brown (ENG)
2020 No award given
2021 No award given
2022 Sebastien Bechara (England)

 

Cameron Murray’s second-half try carried Australia into the World Cup final at New Zealand’s expense as the Kangaroos edged a breathless encounter 16-14 at Elland Road.

The Kiwis led 14-10 at the break through scores from Jahrome Hughes and Dylan Brown but Murray found a gap on 55 minutes to settle a contest which lived up to the pre-match hype and swung both ways throughout.

New Zealand saw two Peta Hiku tries disallowed in the second half as Australia, for whom Josh Addo-Carr and Valentine Holmes also crossed, continued their record of not missing a men’s World Cup final since 1954.

Much of the pre-match discussion had centred around the full-back battle between James Tedesco and Joey Manu and it was the latter who had the first key involvement as the Kiwis drew first blood on 11 minutes.

Manu rose highest to claim Brown’s perfectly judged kick and his offload gave Hughes a simple finish for a score converted by Jordan Rapana.

Rapana was soon in defensive action, delivering a heavy hit on Addo-Carr, but it left no lasting impact on the flying wing as Australia quickly levelled matters.

Ben Hunt sent the ball skywards from 40 metres out and it landed on a sixpence for the jet-heeled Addo-Carr to dot down on the left for his 12th try of the tournament, equalling teammate Holmes’ 2017 record for the most tries scored in a men’s World Cup.

Rapana’s boot edged New Zealand 8-6 in front, Cam Munster penalised for offside when Tedesco spilled Hughes’ grubber kick into him, but the Kangaroos again bounced back quickly.

This time it was Holmes who applied the finishing touch following an incisive run by Jack Wighton, who sold Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad a dummy and offloaded to the Cowboys wing for a try which survived a check by the video referee.

Cleary’s conversion attempt slid across the face of the posts and a pulsating first half had time for one more twist as the Kiwis struck again.

Ronaldo Mulitalo was released down the left and once he had evaded Wighton’s despairing dive, he had time to assess his options and release inside for Brown to run in unopposed.

Rapana’s kick gave Michael Maguire’s side a 14-10 lead at the interval and they thought they had extended it further five minutes into the second half when Hiku crossed following fine work by Moses Leota.

But the try was disallowed for offside, Rapana having been in front of the kicker when boot was put to ball, and the Kangaroos swiftly made the most of their reprieve when awarded a penalty five metres out.

A simple two points were on offer but Australia had bigger plans and when the ball was popped to Murray, he caught the Kiwi defence napping to power under the posts.

There was no let-up in the physicality as the game approached the hour mark, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui crunching into Manu to force a knock-on before Cazoo Player of the Match Liam Martin’s brutal hit on Nelson Asofa-Solomona led to a spot of handbags as the on-field temperate continued to rise.

Harry Grant’s dart was held up by last-ditch Kiwi defending as the Kangaroos interchange looked to inject a spark but New Zealand, who had spent much of the second half defending, soon upped the ante in search of a dramatic late winner.

They were inches away from finding one courtesy of Hiku, who was again denied after he ran out of space, grounding Hughes’ grubber on the touchline.

That proved the last of the Kiwis’ chances as Australia held on to seal a ninth win in their last 10 World Cup matches against New Zealand and book their place at Old Trafford next weekend.

Jordan Rapana’s late show ensured New Zealand survived a major scare to beat Fiji 24-18 and set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash with Australia.

In a classic encounter, the Bati had threatened to repeat their famous upset win at the same stage in 2017, as they led the quarter-final 12-6 at half-time after tries from Maika Sivo and captain Kevin Naiqama were followed by Ronaldo Mulitalo’s effort for the Kiwis.

Naiqama’s quick-thinking restablished his side’s 12-point cushion at the start of the second period but the number one ranked side in the world were at their imperious best, fighting back through tries from Briton Nikora and Joey Manu to level at 18-18 and set up a dramatic finish.

Rapana’s crucial penalty kick then gave the Kiwis the lead for the first time in the game, before the winger’s try sealed it in the closing stages.

Fiji will leave the tournament with their heads held high after arguably an even better performance, than the one that saw them knock New Zealand out in Wellington five years ago in what was undoubtedly the game of the tournament so far.

It was the Bati who got the dream start in Hull when winger Sivo barged through the tackles to go over in the corner for his fourth score of the tournament.

The lead was nothing less than Fiji deserved and when skipper Naiqama cut a superb short line through the Kiwi defence to cross the favourites were in real trouble.

But the Kiwis got themselves back in the contest when the pacey Mulitalo flew over in the corner for his second try of the tournament, with Rapana putting their kicking difficulties firmly behind them with a perfect touchline conversion.

New Zealand continued to bang on the door, Dylan Brown’s high kick causing a scramble in the left-hand corner and although they kept the ball in play the Kiwis could not find a way over the whitewash.

Mulitalo looked New Zealand’s main threat throughout the opening 40, but Fiji’s ability to withstand the pressure and maintain their physicality across the pitch ensured Wise Kativerata’s team led at the break.

The Kiwis had started the second half with a renewed purpose in their sets, but were dealt a further blow when Naiqama dummied from dummy-half and went down the short side before faking another pass to spin through the challenges to restore the Bati’s 12-point lead.

Undeterred, New Zealand responded when interchange Briton Nikora took advantage of Fiji’s defence dropping off the tackle close to the line to find the whitewash.

Only minutes later they went mightily close to levelling when Mulitalo looked to have grounded the ball in the corner only for Brandon Wakeham to produce a sensational last-ditch tackle, video referee Tom Grant confirming the on-field decision of no try.

Despite the half-back’s try-scoring save the 2008 world champions kept up the pressure, and they restored parity when Mulitalo’s clever burst infield gave magic man Manu his third try of the tournament.

Then came a thrilling last ten minutes, with Rapana showing no nerves to slot his penalty between the posts after New Zealand’s captain’s challenge overruled Gerard Sutton’s original knock-on call and saw Viliame Kikau penalised for stripping the ball illegally from Manu.

That swung the quarter-final the Kiwis way but there was still time for Fiji to throw everything at them in the closing minutes.

But they couldn’t take advantage of some sustained territory and Rapana had the final say by diving over in the corner in the dying seconds to close the book on a last eight classic

 Hull, England, November 5, 2022 – Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad has been brought into the centres and Nelson Asofa-Solomona will again start in the second row in the New Zealand Kiwis’ Rugby League World Cup quarter-final against Fiji Bati at MKM Stadium in Hull today (7.30pm kick-off local time; 8.30am Sunday NZT).

In confirming the line-up for the match, head coach Michael Maguire has recalled Nicoll-Klokstad after using Briton Nikora in the centres in last week’s 48-10 win over Ireland.

The starting side is otherwise unchanged from the one used against the Wolfhounds.

Kieran Foran, Isaiah Papali’i and Isaac Liu are again on the interchange along with Nikora.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has been withdrawn from the squad due to a hamstring injury. Scott Sorensen is 18th man and Jeremy Marshall-King is 19th man.

 

NZ KIWIS v FIJI

 

MKM Stadium, Hull

7.30pm, Saturday, November 5, 2022

 

 

POSITION SQUAD NO. PLAYERS NAME HERITAGE NUMBER
Fullback 1 JOSEPH MANU # 815
Wing 2 RONALDO MULITALO # 824
Centre 21 CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD # 820
Centre 4 PETA HIKU # 781
Wing 5 JORDAN RAPANA # 798
Five Eighth 6 DYLAN BROWN # 826
Halfback 7 JAHROME HUGHES # 819
Prop 8 JESSE BROMWICH (C) # 775
Hooker 9 BRANDON SMITH # 816
Prop 10 JAMES FISHER-HARRIS # 801
Second Row 12 KENNY BROMWICH # 796
Second Row 16 NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA # 804
Loose Forward 13 JOSEPH TAPINE # 800
Interchange 11 ISAIAH PAPALI’I # 817
Interchange 14 KIERAN FORAN # 757
Interchange 17 BRITON NIKORA # 818
Interchange 20 ISAAC LIU # 805
18th Man 23 SCOTT SORENSEN #831
19th Man 22 JEREMY MARSHALL-KING # 830

 

For inquiries please contact:

Media Manager

New Zealand Kiwis

Mobile: +64 21 814 537

Email: mediamanager@nzrl.co.nz

3 November 2022

The Kiwis enter the Rugby League World Cup finals this weekend, and what better way to watch the boys than to head down to your local rugby league club and watch as a community! The quarter-final features the Kiwis going up against a robust Fiji Bati side this Sunday, whilst our Kiwi Ferns take on a tough Jillaroo’s side hot off their 46-0 victory over France.

Both games will be streamed at Mt Albert and Mangere East, with the opportunity to send some messages of support to the players and send some questions for your favourite players to answer! Both clubs will provide a menu for both breakfast and coffee.

We encourage everyone to come and support our men and women representing Aotearoa!

Upcoming Watch Parties:

QUARTER FINAL: Kiwis vs Fiji – 6th November 8:30 am (Doors open at 8 am)

  • Mt Albert Lions – Rocky Nook Ave, Mt Albert
  • Mangere East Hawks – 10 Hain Ave, Mangere East

Kiwi Ferns vs Jillaroos – 11th November 8:30 am (Doors open at 8 am)

  • Mt Albert Lions – Rocky Nook Ave, Mt Albert
  • Mangere East Hawks – 10 Hain Ave, Mangere East