The Akarana Falcons have been crowned 2022 NZRL National 20s Champions after upsetting South Island 34-5 in a dominating finals game.

The Akarana Falcons were dominant throughout the first half as Sebastion Su’a opened the scoring account for Akarana in the first 10 minutes of the game. Moments later, Akarana secures two back-to-back tries from Josh Tanielu and Esom Ioka.

With five minutes left in the first half, South Island desperately tried to find their momentum in the game. Makaia Tafua powered over the Akarana defence to secure South Island’s first points.

With seconds left in the first half, Akarana bounced back with another try from Tanielu to give his team a 22-6 lead into the sheds.

South Island forced their way back to attack in the first minutes of the second half. Their winger Kiardyn Hatch busted through the Akarana defence to go over the line and secure their first points in the second stanza.

Akarana was too strong and bounced back with another set of back-to-back tries from Ioke and Faith Kalekale to put Akarana further in front.

The late try from South Island’s fullback Mata Halbert-Pere gave a chance for a comeback, but Akarana held on until the final whistle to become the 2022 National 20s champions.

Congratulations to the Akarana Falcons, the 2022 NZRL National 20s Champions and holders of the Ruben Wiki Cup.


Akarana – 34


Sebastian Su’a, Josh Tanielu x2  Esom Ioka x2, Faith Kalekale


Tuipala fa’aee (3/4)

Josh Tanielu (2/2)


South Island–  16


Makaia Tafua, Kiardyn Hatch, Mato Halbert-Pere


Mato Halbert-Pere (2/3)


April 12, 2022


The Sky Sport Women’s Premiership and the National 20’s Ruben Wiki Cup finals culminate this weekend at the home of rugby league, Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium.


The action kicks off at 12pm when competition dark horse South Island take on Akarana in the National 20’s final followed by 11 time winners, Counties Manukau taking on the  Akarana Falcons in the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership final at 2pm.


Both games are free entry at Mt Smart, no vaccine pass required, and for those out of Auckland all the action is brought to you live on Sky Sport 4.




First placed Akarana go into the final as the only undefeated team in the competition which included a tough victory over opponents South Island in the first round. The Auckland based outfit will be heading into the final with a full steam of momentum off the back of a 76-0 trouncing of the Upper Central Stallions. Big performances from key players such as Elam Payne and Sebastian Su’a will be crucial if the Falcons want to lift their first National 20’s Ruben Wiki Cup trophy.


Road to the Final










South Island go into the final after a convincing victory against Counties Manukau. South Island played a composed and clinical game as they defeated the favoured Auckland side to secure their place against Akarana. A bye in the final week of the round robin also gives them a much needed rest going into what will be a tough contest. Big performances by Uriah Tuli, Ethan Faitala, Jacob Lowe and half Oliver Lawry have led to the South Island’s success, and these players will be instrumental in seeing South Island capture their first National 20’s title.


Road to the Final












Counties Manukau go into the final of the SkySport Women’s Premiership looking to secure their 12th title on the bounce as they take on Auckland rivals Akarana. The Counties women have been dominant throughout the round-robin completing an undefeated run in a tight 26-22 triumph over their grand final opponents. Key veterans Christyl Stowers and Teuila Fotu-Moala will look to lead the young group to a historic consecutive victory.


Road to the Final








Despite coming off a tough narrow loss against Counties, Akarana showed positive signs as they look extremely capable of breaking Counties streak in the Women’s Premiership. A different side from the grand finalists two years ago, Akarana have a young core that have already shown their class in this years’ tournament. A team not short of talent, Kiwi Ferns Lavinia Tauhalaliku and Kanyon Paul will be looking to stamp their mark on the game in tandem with half Laishon Albert-Jones. With both teams ready and raring to go, this will be thrilling 2022 SkySport Women’s Premiership final not to be missed.



Road to the Final









All are encouraged to get down to Mt Smart to see a Saturday filled with exciting rugby league (no vaccine pass needed) or catch all the action on SkySport 4!


Akarana 20s hosted a weakened Upper Central Stallions 20s at Bruce Pulman Park in South Auckland. Akarana outclassed the visitors beating the Stallions 76 nil.


The Stallion’s defence was under pressure for the majority of the first half. Akarana was relentless in pressure taking every opportunity to put points on the board. Akarana scored six back-to-back unanswered tries through Elam Payne, Louise Dehar Webster on the edge, Joshua Tanielu, Esom Ioka, Robert Davis and Doux Fiatau-Kauhiva. Akarana went to the sheds with a large early lead over the Stallions 34 to nil.


Akarana’s barrage of tries continued into the second half, more tries scored from Akrana’s Davis with his second try of the match, Seeti Kuresa-Tovao, Waikare Ratima, Dehar Webster scored his second, and Sebastian Su’a. With less than ten minutes to go, Akarana’s Tanielu and Fiatau-Kauhive both score their second. Tyson Davies scored the last try of the match for Akarana.


Akarana kept the Stallions out of the match successfully to put on a masterclass and secure their spot in the final. The final score to 76 – 0 to Akarana. The National 20s final will be held next weekend, Saturday April 16 at Mt Smart Stadium.


09 April 2022

Counties Manukau Stingrays emerged 72-4 winners over Waikato in the final round-robin of the NZRL National 20s competition at Bruce Pulman Park.

Ben Peni from Counties drew first blood strolling over the try line within the first ten minutes of the match. Waikato quickly answered back with points of their own through winger Ramsay Finau who scored from a superb dive in the corner.

Counties did not take long to bounce back with four tries.  A beautiful offload saw Stanley Hingano over the line. Counties benefiting off Waikatos error saw Zedric Timai scoring another four-pointer to put Counties further in front.

Waikato desperately tried to gain the momentum back, but Counties were too strong, passing the ball across the right edge to find Jarney Proctor-Harwood, who weaved his way back into the middle to find the scoreline. With 2 minutes left in the first half, Pesallili Ma secured one more try to give his team a 30 – 4 lead.

Counties continued their dominance into the second half with seven tries.

Teariki Ford scored the first for Counties in the second stanza, opening the floodgates for the Auckland outfit. Tyson Lelefu Sang-Yum, Jacob Hollobon, Timai, Franck Baniani Temanu, Antony Naitoko, and Ben Peni all got on the score sheet, with Peni and Timai chipping in with their second tries for the game.

A complete performance from the Stingrays saw the final scoring being 72-4 in favour of the Auckland side. Outstanding performance from Counties, Teariki Ford successfully converted all 12 tries.

Counties Manukau Stingrays – 72


Ben Peni x2, Stanley Hingano, Zedric Timai x2, Jarney Proctor-Harwood, Pesallili Ma, Teariki Ford, Tyson Lelefu Sang-Yum, Jacob Hollobon, Franck Baniani Temanu, Antony Naitoko,


Teariki Ford (12/12)


Waikato – 4


Ramsay Finau


Daniela (0/1)



April 3 2022


Counties travelled to Christchurch’s Nga Puna Wai to take on competition leaders South Island.


Early errors from the home side saw immediate points for the Auckland outfit as Timothy Tiatia finished in style crossing over in the corner. Five minutes later South Island struck back as an attacking kick from Oliver Lawry ricocheted into the hands of Jacob Lowe as he went under the posts. Halbert-Pere added the extras to put them up 6-4 early.


Off the ensuing kick off South Island charged down the field and put their stamp on the game scoring through number 14 Taani Fangupo, making the score 10-4. Not done yet, South Island halfway through the first half again found themselves in open space only for Tiatia to save a try for Counties Manukau. Counties scored with five minutes left in the half through Samuel Hansen as the score saw 10-8 going into the halftime break.

Only minutes into the second stanza South Island half Makaia Tafua forced his way over as they extended their advantage to six points. The second half was defined by the stifling defense from South Island who held Counties out on multiple occasions, not budging on their own line. These defensive sets were the foundation for number 11 Tupou Kaufononga and centre Siaki’s second half tries, completing an all-round performance.

With seven minutes remaining, Counties scored a consolation as Hansen grabbed his second, with the fulltime score reading 24-12 to the home side.




Tries – Jacob Lowe, Taani Fangupo, Makaia Tafua, Tupou Kaufononga, Vaione Siaki


Conversions – Mata Halbert-Pere 2/5





Tries – Timothy Tiatia, Samuel Hansen (x2)


Conversions – Teariki Ford 0/3

02 April 2022

Akarana Falcons put on a dominant 36 – 14 win over Waikato at Auckland, Bruce Pulman Park.

Akarana opened the scoring with an offload pass to Tuipala Fa’aee to put Akarana in the lead. Minutes later saw winger Esom Ioka busting through two Waikato defenders to add another four to Akarana’s scoring account.

Waikato forced their way back with a superb try from fullback Western Tehuri who found himself stretching over the scoreline to secure their first points before the whistle. Akarana leads Waikato 10-4 at halftime.

Two minutes into the second stanza, an error from Waikato found Joshua Tanielu catching a loose ball and taking it over the line to open the scoring account for the Akarana. Moments later, Akarana attacks again, with Tyson Davies powering over the Waikato defenders to put Akarana further in front.

With Akarana dominating the game, Waikato managed to find a four-pointer from winger Noah Wood, sprinting up the left wing and over the line to open their account in the second half.

Still, Akarana were too dominant across the park scoring a further back-to-back try from Elam Payne and Kenneth-Seth Henry-Taua. But Waikato bounced back with another four points before the full-time whistle. Benefiting from Akaranas errors saw winger Noah Wood easily barge over the line for his second try of the game.

Doux Fiatau-Kauhiva scored his first try in the final minutes to secure Akaranas win over Waikato 36-14.


Akarana Falcons  – 36

Tries: Tuipala Fa’aee, Esom Ioka, Joshua Tanielu, Tyson Davies, Elam Payne, Kenneth-Seth Henry-Taua, Doux Fiatau-Kauhiva

Conversions: Tuipala Fa’aee (4/6) Doux Fiatau-Kauhiva (1/1)


Waikato  – 14

Tries: Western Tahuri, Noah Wood x2

Conversions: Jardyn Stillmvich-Watene (1/3)





27 March 2022


Auckland’s Trusts Stadium held host to South Island and Waikato, with Waikato seeking their first win of the competition.


The South Island side did not take long to open their account, half Oliver Lawry taking advantage of a Uriah Tuli break to go over in the second minute. 14 minutes in Waikato hit back, hooker Tahere Kaio-Koroheke taking advantage of lazy ruck defense to sneak over from dummy-half. Te Awa Daniela converted to take a 6-4 lead.


South Island’s Lawry turned provider in the 19th minute as he put second-rower Tupou Kaufofona through from close range to retake the lead. Moments later Tuli again found himself in space and this time finished, scoring a scintillating solo try as the South Island side went into the break, up 16-6.


Five minutes into the second stanza a dummy half break from Kiardyn Hatch was turned into points as South Island shifted left finding Taani Fangupo who crashed over. Halbert-Pere making it 22-6. After receiving multiple penalties breakdown in the play saw Waikato prop Portman Paul fight off several defenders to bring them to with two converted tries. With five minutes remaining, Prop George Faiava snuffed out any semblance of a comeback crashing over under the posts with Jacob Lowe adding the extras.


Two minutes from time, Deijdre Siaki leapt over the pack to reign in a cross-field kick to score his first of the afternoon. Not to be outdone, Oliver Lawry connected with Jacob Lowe as he scored seconds from the buzzer to complete the victory.


South Island – 40


Tries: Lawry, Kaufofonga, Tuli, Fangupo, Faiava, Siaki, Lowe.


Conversions: Halbert-Pere (3/4), Lowe (3/3)


Waikato – 10


Tries: Kaio-Koroheke, Paul.


Conversions: Daniela (1/1), Stillinovich-Watene (0/1)

Counties Manukau Stingrays put on a dominant 56 – 6 win over Upper Central.

Upper Central opened the scoring with a try from Rawhiri Matthew, who powered through the Counties defence, stretching over the line to take the lead.

Counties wasted no time in hitting back. Hooker Jarney Proctor opened their account, and only minutes later, winger Timothy Tiatia’s superb break down the right edge set up teammate Teariki Ford who grabbed the second. Stingrays fullback Lelefu Sang-Yum found himself in open space, weaving through the defence to go untouched under the posts.

Upper Central forced their way back into the game, but Counties winger Timothy Tiatia took control and hit teammate Maddison Tekeu for his first of the evening, widening the gap to 16.

Counties continued their dominance into the second half with six tries.

Zedric Timai scored the first for Counties in the second stanza, opening the floodgates for the Auckland outfit. Heneli Luani, Tiatia and Pesalili Ma all got on the score sheet, with Ma chipping in with a hat-trick.

A complete performance from the Stingrays saw the final scoring being 56-6 in favour of the Auckland side.


Counties Manukau Stingrays – 56


Jarney Proctor, Teariki Ford, Lelefu Sang-Yum, Maddison Tekeu, ZedricTimai, Pesalili Ma x3, Heneli Luani, Timothy Tiatia


Teariki Ford (5/7),  Lelefu Sang-Yum (2/2), Anthony Naitoko (1/1)


Upper Central  – 6


Rawhiri Matthew


Xavier Mitchell-Winsor (1/1)

20 March 2022


Upper Central Zone made the trip to Christchurch’s Nga Puna Wai to take on a South Island side, looking for their first victory in 2022.


The game started with both teams trading penalties until the seventh minute when Jacob Lowe opened the game’s account and then converted his own try.


Three minutes later, Upper Central Zone hit right back through prop forward Johnless Faulker to level the scores at 6-6 as Xavier Mitchell-Windsor converted the try.


After scooping up an attacking grubber, fullback Mata Halbert-Pere made a scintillating break to put South Island in great attacking position. From this position, a right-side shift allowed Vaione Siaki to go over untouched.


Five minutes later, a break from winger Kiardyn Hatcher led to half Oliver Lawry picking up a kick and putting South Island up 16-6 with Halbert-Pere taking over the kicking duties.


Both teams went into the sheds with the score at 16-6, and four minutes into the second stanza, halfback Arlan Perez sliced his way through to push the lead further to 22-6.


South Island started to run rampant after a break through the middle ended up with Uriah Tuli getting on the score sheet, crossing over to make it 28-6.


Tupou Kaufofonga then put the home side up 32-6, and from the ensuing kick-off, Lawry scored his second, a long-range solo effort, with 15 minutes left in the half.


Jacob Lowe also grabbed his double, plucking a wayward Upper Central pass out of the air to further the lead to 44-6. The Stallions scored a consolation with five minutes remaining through Jaxyn Tuvalu as it ended 44-12.


South Island – 44




Jacob Lowe (x2), Oliver Lawry (x2), Vaione Siaki, Uriah Tuli, Arlan Perez, Tupou Kaufofonga.




Jacob Lowe (1/2), Mata Halbert-Pere (5/6)


Upper Central Zone – 12




Johnless Faulker, Jaxyn Tuvalu




Xavier Mitchell-Windsor


March 19 2022

Counties Manukau Stingrays tie 26- 26 with Akarana Falcons in round 2 of the NZRL National 20s competition at Auckland Trusts Stadium. 

Counties opened the scoring with a try from Maddison Tekeu on the 2min mark. Followed by another try from Pesalili Ma, who was able to find space up the right edge and, with a ton of pace, sprinted from one end of the field to the other to put Counties in front with a two-score lead.

Akarana hit back with a superb play spreading the ball left to right through Joshua Tanielu’s offload pass to teammate Sebastian Hindt to put Akarana on the board. 

Counties gained back their momentum as they steamrolled down the field before Teariki Ford chipped the ball into space, beautifully bounced for him to catch and score under the post. Akaranas wing, Tuipala Faaee, found himself in trouble, diving in with his legs after Ford had grounded the ball resulting in a yellow card and an 8 point try for Counties.

With 3 mins to go for the first half, Akarana were desperate for more points before heading into the sheds. Benefiting from two errors from Counties, Akarana saw Ratima emerge from the scrum up the right edge to secure them four more points before the whistle. Counties Manukau Stingrays led Akarana Falcons 20-8 at halftime. 

Counites momentum continued into the first few minutes of the second half as Ford grubbers into open space, closely followed by Samuel Hansen to catch and score. 

With the score margin increasing, Akarana continued aggressiveness, leading to 3 back-to-back tries. Captin Doux Fiatau-Kauhiva busted through the solid Counties defence to score their first points of the half. Minutes later, Akarana capitalised again, scoring another through Kenneth-Seth Henery-Taua, who quickly went over the line untouched to close the point gap slightly. 

With 5mins left, the Counties defence fought hard to hold their ground, but Akarana were too aggressive and saw prop Paaua Papuni-Abbott with an extraordinary run to close the score gap.

After a tough back and forth contest in the last 2mins of the game, the final hooter sounded 26-26. 

Counties Manukau Stingrays – 26


Maddison Tekeu, Pesalili Ma, Teariki Ford, Samuel Hansen


Teariki Ford (4/4)


Akarana Falcons – 26


Sebastian Hindt, Ratima, Doux Fiatau-Kauhiva, Kenneth-Seth Henery-Taua, Paaua Papuni-Abbott


Tuipala Faaee (3/5)

March 13 2022


Christchurch’s Nga Puna Wai hosted both South Island and Akarana for their first hit-outs of the 2022 Ruben Wiki Cup.


Akarana asserted themselves immediately, quickly moving into the swing of the game and converting this early dominance into points as Northcote winger Tupala Faaee went over untouched in the corner.


Ten minutes in, Akarana found themselves over again through Faaee as the Falcons went to a short side shift, capitalising on an overlap to make the score 8-0 to the visitors.


Dominating the opening exchanges, Captain Doux-Fiatau-Kauhiva intercepted a loose pass to put winger Esom Ioka down the right-hand side extending the lead to 14-0 as Joshua Tanielu converted.


South Island found a way through as three quick penalties pushed them down onto the Akarana line. Tupou Kaufononga was able to turn that field position into points as he crashed over around the ruck to bring the game to 14-6 going into the half.


Eight minutes into the second stanza saw Sebastian Su’a fight his way over for a four-pointer. A superb break by Ioka put Akarana into dangerous territory and a short ball by Fiatau-Kauhiva put Su’a into a hole where he was able to score. Faaee converted to make it a 20-6 game.


With the contest going back and forth, Akarana took the game into their own hands and were able to extend their advantage in the 60th minute. A clinical set-piece saw Lani Graham-Taufa push the score to a comfortable 24-6.


With 15 minutes left in the match, South Island produced their best displays of the afternoon as Makaia Tafua, Ethan Faitaua and fullback Kiardyn Hatch put themselves on the scoresheet in quick succession to make the game a tight contest. Missed conversions were costly as they were unable to complete the comeback with Akarana sneaking through 24-20 to end round 1.


Next week South Island hosts Upper Central Stallions and Akarana meet Counties in the Auckland derby at Trusts Stadium.


Akarana – 20



Tupala Faaee (x2), Esom Ioka, Sebastian Su’a, Lani Graham-Taufa.



Faaee (1/3), Tanielu (1/2)


South Island – 20



Tupou Kaufononga, Makaia Tafua, Ethan Faitaua, Kiardyn Hatch.



Jacob Lowe (2/4)

12 March 2022

The Upper Central Stallions emerged 48-12 winners over Waikato Mana in Round 1 of the NZRL National 20s Ruben Wiki Cup at Davies Park, Huntly.

Trevel Garninner-Hano opened the scoring on the left edge after five minutes of play as Xavier Mitchell-Windsor slid between the Waikato defence and found the winger to get on the board.

Stallion’s winger Jericho Yorke found himself in space after a superb break, finding Gardner-Hano for his second after a quarter of the match gone. Minutes later, Upper Central capitalised again, scoring another through winger Bailey Mohi Lyttle to grow their advantage.

Desperation from the Waikato side saw Te Poria Marsh stretch himself over the line to claw the Mana back into the contest.

With seconds left in the half, Upper Central captain Dayna Bidois crossed over, wrestling the game back into the Stallion’s favour as they went into the break up 18-6.

The Stallions imposed their will to start the second stanza as Xavier Mitchell-Winsor went over after the restart. Keanu Watson-Tautau then backed him up, using his footwork to score another try to give his team a commanding 30-6 lead.

With the Stallions dominating the game, Waikato managed to find a four-pointer against the run of play through Jardyn Watene, opening their account in the second half.

Upper Central hit right back through winger Jericho Yorke and moments later, Gardner-Hano, who completed his hat trick. Stallions full-back Ravyn Whetu sliced through Waikato with only minutes remaining to secure their first win of 2022.

Upper Central Stallions 48 (Trevel Garniner-Hano x3, Bailey Mohi Lyttle, Dayna Bidois, Xavier Mitchell-Winsor, Keanu Watson-Tautau, Jericho Yorke, Ravyn Whetu

Waikato Mana 12 (Te Poria Marsh, Jardyn Watene)

March 10 2022


The premier 20’s competition, The Ruben Wiki Cup is back this year, kicking off on Saturday the 12th of March, with Waikato hosting Upper Central. 


The National 20’s Ruben Wiki Cup brought a level of competition not seen before in Aotearoa, culminating in plenty of grassroots talent taking the next step in their careers, signing with professional NRL clubs.

 The cup consists of five teams across the motu competing against each other in a five-week round-robin concept ending with a final being played by the first and second-placed teams. Auckland Blue and Auckland White have been replaced by Akarana and Counties Manukau this year.



Due to Covid protocols, protective layers have been set to create the safest possible competition for everyone involved. Players will be required to provide a negative Rapid Antigen Test, 48 hours prior to their scheduled games, and at this moment in time, there will be no spectators to ensure the 100 limit is kept. 


In the event of a Covid framework change, spectators will be required to provide vaccination passports. 


All games will be televised on Sky Sport.


Week 1 draw:


Saturday 12th March


Waikato v Upper Central – 2:00 pm – Davies Park, Huntly.


Sunday 13th March


South Island v Akarana – 2:00 pm – Nga Puna Wai, Christchurch


BYE – Counties Manukau

19 November 2021

New Zealand Rugby League is pleased to announce the National 20s Ruben Wiki Cup Competition returns for 2022, kicking off Saturday, March 12th, with the final taking place over Easter weekend. 

Six teams will battle it out for the Ruben Wiki Cup; Akarana, Counties Manukau, Upper Central (Bay of Plenty, Coastline, Gisborne and Hauraki), Waikato, reigning champions Central Districts (Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu & Wellington), and South Island. 

The Ruben Wiki Cup games will broadcast live on Sky Sport 4 to domestic and international audiences, acting as a key development pathway for future high-performance opportunities. 

The Ruben Wiki Cup not only showcases New Zealand’s U20s domestic game but it provides clubs and districts with the opportunity to recruit and retain rangatahi talent, an age group notorious for significant drop-offs in sporting activity, according to Sport NZ.

NZRL GM of High Performance and Football, Motu Tony, says: “The National 20s Ruben Wiki Cup was a great success last year, and we look forward to stepping it up a level in 2022.

“The competition provided several opportunities for players with NRL and affiliated NRL clubs while also allowing coaches, managers, trainers and match officials the opportunity to gain further development and experience.

“The Ruben Wiki Cup will continue to expand year on year, providing broadcasted playing opportunities for our best young Kiwi talent across the country. 

“Thank you to Sky Sport for their ongoing support of our game; I look forward to a great competition come 2022.”

April 29 2021

The Warriors have secured two of New Zealand’s hottest young prospects Zyon Maiuu and Jacob Laban on three-year contracts to add more quality to the club’s playing depth for the future.

The 17-year-old Kelston Boys’ High School students are regarded by Warriors recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan as New Zealand’s best young second rowers.

“We are very excited to lock up Zyon and Jacob for the next three years,” O’Sullivan said.

“Both boys complement each other beautifully, Zyon with his competitiveness, skill and toughness and ability to play edge and middle equally as well as the other while Jacob is a gifted, athletic edge back rower with a huge motor.”

Laban, a Randwick Kingfishers junior, moved to Auckland from Wellington this year to complete his year 13 studies and prepare for the next step of his rugby league career with the Warriors.

Maiuu was named the MVP after the recent NZRL National 20s competition.

“Both boys live together as we wanted a good family home for Jacob and can’t thank Paula and Tooma (Zyon’s mum and dad) enough for taking Jacob in and giving him a great environment to live in,” said O’Sullivan.

“They are thriving and pushing each other in their training, playing and general life skills. It’s also a great story for Kelston Boys’ High School and our working relationship with the school.

“Both boys made a huge impression on the staff when they joined the New Zealand-based top squad in the preseason last year.

“They both looked very much at home and despite their age mixed it with the big boys.

“I can’t wait for them to join the top squad in November and get their NRL dreams into action as I have no doubt the boys will go on and become Warriors in the next few years.”

Maiuu, a Te Atatu Roosters product, played for the Warriors in last year’s Covid-shortened SG Ball Cup competition while he has also played for Kelston’s First XV rugby union side. He was named in the New Zealand Under-18 Schools team last year.

Laban, who attended St Bernard’s College before moving to Auckland, was named College Sport Wellington’s rugby league player of the year in 2019. He was selected in the New Zealand Resident 16s squad last year.

10 April 2021

Despite the pouring rain at Opaheke Park, the 2021 National 20s Grand Final was one to remember. Central Districts were crowned 2021 NZRL National 20s Champions after upsetting Auckland Blue 18-14 in a dramatic final showdown.

Auckland Blue were dominant throughout the first half as Viliami Finau opened the scoring after just five minutes with a try in the corner. Central Districts hit back but Auckland’s Jeremiah Schuster’s scored before the break giving the home side a 10-4 lead at half-time.

Minutes into the second half Central Districts scored through Lennix Tovo and for the following half hour dominated most of the match, aided by Auckland wing Albert Fifita being sent to the sin bin with 25 to go for a professional foul.

Further tries to Wyatt So’otaga and Herman Seumanufagai, both of which were converted by Brooklyn Herewini, stretched the Central Districts lead to 18-10.

The late try to Taufa gave Auckland a chance at a dramatic comeback with less than one minute remaining, but Central Districts held on handing Auckland Blue their first loss of the competition.

Congratulations to Central Districts the 2021 NZRL National 20s Champions.




Auckland Blue have qualified through to the NZRL National 20s Grand Final with a game to spare, after beating Northland 48-8 on Saturday to remain unbeaten in the competition so far. 

Four tries, three of which were converted by debutant Johnson Murray, saw Auckland take a 22-8 lead into the break and come the second stanza they found another gear.

The Auckland left edge was outstanding, with centre Ben Kosi scoring twice and back-rower Wiremu Kaire enjoying a strong outing despite a stint in the sin bin late in the game. 

Mt Albert playmaker Murray marked his first outing in the competition with a try and five conversions, while Howick’s Lonnie Papani made the most of his chance to start at dummy-half by scoring a try and causing countless issues for the Northland defence. 

Auckland Blue have a catch up game next Saturday against Waicoa Bay – to make up for the game they missed during the region’s COVID-19 lockdown last month – before they face Central Districts, South Island or Waicoa Bay in the decider on April 10 at Opaheke Park. 

Auckland 48 (Viliami Finau, Ben Kosi x2, Izaac Anitelea, Anthony Naitoko, Lonnie Papani, Albert Fifita, Johnson Murray, Jeremiah Schuster tries; Johnson Murray x5, Izaac Anitelea x1 conversions) def. Northland 8 (Tytan Semenoff, Nigel Iro tries) at Whangarei Stadium. HT: 22-8.

South Island keep their hopes of a finals appearance alive with an impressive win over Auckland White

Auckland White led on two separate occasions but couldn’t hold the South Island team out defensively.

A late Mapu Uasi try, along with his accurate boot throughout the game, proved the difference in the end and means the South Island remain in the race for a spot in the decider, pending the result of Sunday’s match between Central Districts and Waicoa Bay. 

Earlier at Opaheke Park Auckland White raced out of the gate and had scored a point a minute by the time the game was 10 minutes old, thanks to efforts from Tolomanila Saumamao-Watts and Navajo Doyle, along with a Doux Kauhiva conversion. 

But the next 40 minutes proved fruitless for the Francis Meli-coached outfit and they quickly surrendered momentum to the South Island, leaking tries in quick succession to Eli Ellison, Kiarn Wilson and Sincere Harraway.

Uasi converted all three efforts to give the South Island team an 18-10 lead at the break. 

Auckland gave up another four-pointer immediately in the second half, before Howick wing Peter Uelese brought them back into the contest with two tries in the space of five minutes, one of which was converted by Kauhiva to reduce the deficit to two points.

A brilliant passage of play minutes later saw Auckland travel the full length of the field and cross again through Saumamao-Watts to lead 24-22. 

But Uasi’s strike with minutes to go confirmed the result for the southerners, leaving Auckland White to play for pride next week against Northland at Opaheke Park. 

South Island 26 (Eli Ellison, Kiarn Wilson, Sincere Harraway, Kyle Amer, Mapu Uasi tries; Mapu Uasi x3 goals) def. Auckland 24 (Tolomanila Saumamao-Watts x2, Navajo Doyle, Peter Uelese x2 tries; Doux Kauhiva x2 goals) at Opaheke Park. HT: 18-10 

Central Districts have emerged 54-6 winners over Northland in round four of the NZRL National 20s competition at Jerry Collins Stadium in Porirua. 

Central districts on the left edge open the scoring with a double from number five Herman Seumanufagai off the back of two strong runs. Northland came close to scoring early but lack of completion meant they couldn’t get the ball over the line. Seumanufagai followed up to score a his hat trick, again exposing Northland on the left edge. Northland finally put points on the board with ten minutes left in the first half through number nine, Dilano Henry-Turner. A late penalty kick for Northland by number fourteen Tangaroa Pireoa, secured them two more points before the whistle, Central Districts lead Northland 14 – 6 at half time. 

An aggressive start to the second half saw a focussed Central District’s put the foot down, scoring back to back tries. Jayden Andrade-Kingi barge over the Northland defence followed up with a try from fellow team mate Junior Tefoto. Central District’s Andrade-Kingi scored his second right in the corner. At the line, Kayin Katene ran through the defence to score his second followed by a fourth and fifth try from Seumanufagai with less than ten minutes to go in the match. To close out the match, a very enthusiastic Central Districts team lead Andrade-Kingi to score his hat trick diving for the corner. 

Central districts will face Wai-Coa-Bay next Saturday in Whanganui, while Northland meet the top of table Auckland Blue in Whangarei.

March 14, 2021 / Will Evans

A dominant second-half display underpinned Auckland Blue’s commanding 34-4 victory over South Island in the NZRL National 20-year competition match in Christchurch on Sunday.

A vocal Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub crowd enjoyed an absorbing first-half tussle, with Auckland taking an 8-4 lead into the break. But the visitors stepped up a couple of gears in the second stanza, scoring four unanswered tries to run away convincing winners.

South Island tryscoring chances went begging either side of Auckland Blue’s sixth-minute opener, with centre Benjamin Kosi powering over from close range.

Kosi’s pace and footwork proved too hard to handle again five minutes later, leaving South Island defenders strewn in his wake on the way to an early double.

But the hosts struck back almost immediately, fullback Mapu Uasi continuing his magnificent National 20s campaign by brilliantly latching onto a grubber from halfback Jesse Wihongi and diving in for the try.

After a lengthy injury break as Auckland fullback Nehumi Teu was stretchered off, Uasi went agonisingly close to scoring in the corner and livewire hooker Sincere Harraway was held up under the posts in the same set. South Island was able to keep their line intact under heavy fire in the lead-up to halftime, heading to the sheds four points down.

But the home side sent the second-half kick-off out on the full, providing Auckland with a gilt-edged chance. Big interchange forward Tupou Fifita reached a long arm out to score their third try.

The visitors took an iron grip on the game with a stunning try 10 minutes into the second stanza. After right-edge second-rower Salesi Ataata put Kosi into the clear, Auckland swept back to the left for skipper and back-rower Zyon Maiu’u to storm over.

The imposing Maiu’u busted the South Island defence again five minutes later to make it a double.

Auckland Blue hooker Stanley Iongi capped a strong running game by darting over for his side’s sixth try with 12 minutes to go.

Caleb Laiman iced the 30-point win with a penalty – his fifth goal of the day – after the siren.

Auckland Blue 34 (Benjamin Kosi 2, Zyon Maiu’u 2, Tupou Fifita, Stanley Iongi tries; Caleb Laiman 5 goals)  South Island 4 (Mapu Uasi try) at Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub, Christchurch, Sunday 14th March. 


First half

7 min: Auckland Blue 4-0 (Kosi try)

13 min: Auckland Blue 8-0 (Kosi try)

16 min: Auckland Blue 8-4 (Uasi try)

Second half

38 min: Auckland Blue 14-4 (Fifita try, Laiman goal)

45 min: Auckland Blue 20-4 (Maiu’u try, Laiman goal)

50 min: Auckland Blue 26-4 (Maiu’u try, Laiman goal)

63 min: Auckland Blue 32-4 (Iongi try, Laiman goal)

70 min: Auckland Blue 34-4 (Laiman goal)

Wai-Coa-Bay emerged 56-12 winners over Northland in Rd 3 of the NZRL National 20s competition at Opaheke Sports Park.

Captain of Wai-Coa-Bay, Dayna Bidios drew first blood strolling over the try line within the first five minutes of the match. Northland quickly answered back with points of their own through Charme Henry Turner. Wai-Coa-bay number eight Aamon Dean scores minutes later, followed by two tries from Caleb Gamlin and one from Dylan Rogers Pourau.

Wai-Coa-Bay’s Taylor Leef scored a four-pointer to open the second half, followed by winger Caleb Tane scoring a try off a perfect grubber to give his team a 36-4 lead.

Gamlen went on to score his hat trick on the right edge after an excellent pass from his center, Wai-Coa-Bay’s Xavier Mitchell-Winsor made it look easy, running through the Northland defense scoring four more points for his team. Possesion proved to be a problem for Northland as another try was scored by Wai-Coa-Bay’s Leef,

Northland were determined not to give up and scored on the 63rd minute with Klies Kaiarake barging over the line, followed by team mate Toi Munroe scoring in the corner for a late try of his own.

Wai-Coa-Bay will face South Island next Saturday, March 20 at Forsyth Stadium, while Northland meet the formidable Central Districts in Porirua on Sunday, March 21.

Wai-Coa-Bay 56 (Gamlen x3, Leef x2, Bidios, Dean, Rogers Pourau, Tane, Mitchell-Winsor) def. Northland 12 (Henry Turner, Kaiarake, Munroe) at Opaheke Sports Park.

As seen at

Auckland White suffered their first loss of the NZRL National 20s on Saturday, going down to Central Districts 26-24 at Opaheke Sports Park.

Auckland had led by two at the break, but a second half full of errors – coupled with two players being sent to the sin bin – saw the hosts unable to kick on and get the result. 

An Oscar Amosa try with two minutes left in the game did hand Francis Meli’s side a chance to tie things up at 26-all, but Doux Kauhiva’s conversion was wide. 

The loss leaves Auckland White now facing an uphill battle to qualify through to the April 10 grand final ahead of taking on Auckland Blue in Round 4. 

In a losing effort Manurewa half Teariki Ford was a standout, scoring the first try and setting the second up to give Auckland an early 10-0 lead, while in the engine room captain Victor Afoa worked hard all day. 

But despite the promising start a glut of penalties and dropped ball – which would become a habit over the next 50 minutes – assisted the visitors in getting back into the contest and they scored twice to trail just 14-12 at the break. 

Central Districts then scored the next three tries in the second stanza, the last of which came while Auckland had only 11 on the park due to a scuffle which saw Navajo Doyle and Viliami Kuli binned along with a CD player. 

Late tries to Marist big man Elam Payne and Amosa gave Auckland a chance, but they couldn’t complete the dramatic comeback. 

Central Districts 26 (Herman Seumanufagai x2, Lennix Tovo, Hiraka Wanakore, Carlos Kemp tries; Brooklyn Herewini x3 goals). def. Auckland White 24 (Teariki Ford, Te Napi Waipouri, Kaufana Lasa, Elam Payne, Oscar Amosa tries; Doux Kauhiva x2 goals). HT: 12-14 at Opaheke Sports Park. 

12 March 2021

A full round of rugby league actions returns this weekend where all teams will face off in Round 3 of the NZRL National 20s Competition.

Central Districts, coming off an impressive 32-20 comeback win last weekend, will be looking to continue that momentum when they face Auckland White on Saturday, 12pm at Opaheke. This will be followed by Northland v Waicoa Bay at 2pm, two teams both hungry for their first victory.

Sunday will see Auckland Blue come up against South Island at Nga Puna Wai, a team that will be hungry for redemption as they look to put last week’s defeat against Central Districts behind them and maintain the top of the table momentum.


Auckland White v Central Districts

Opaheke Reserve, Auckland

Saturday 13th March

3Viliami KULIWINGLennix TOVO3

Northland v Waicoa Bay

Opaheke Reserve, Auckland

Saturday 13th March

10Nigel IROPROPNirai McRAE10

South Island v Auckland Blue

Nga Puna Wai, Christchurch

Sunday 14th March


12 March 2021

With the Auckland region moving to Alert to Level 1 at midday today, crowds are now permitted at all NZRL National 20s games.

NZRL is encouraging clubs and all involved in the game to continue to maintain a high level of awareness and hygiene at all rugby league activities, including trainings and games. 

While the mandatory Government requirements are significantly reduced under Level 1, clubs are still required to display NZ COVID Tracer QR posters and should have a manual tracing log available too. 

All rugby league participants are encouraged to keep track of where they have been. 

Good handwashing practices and coughing and sneezing into elbows, not hands, remain important. 

Any person feeling unwell should stay home and avoid rugby league activities, and if they present with cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms should contact their doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 to see if they need a test.

07 March 2021

The only game of the round was a 13 try spectacle where the home team came away with a hard-fought win.

Central Districts opened the scoring with a try to winger Herman Seumanufagai on the two-minute mark before the South Island hit back via fullback Mapu Uasi.

Central Districts were next to answer through centre Carlos Kemp as he dotted over for their second four-pointer, but the South Island hit back straight away through powerhouse front-rower George Faaiva.

The Southlanders found their momentum as they steamrolled down the field before Captain Sincere Harraway dotted through the defence to set up the South Island’s third through winger Jack Skipper.

An unlucky error from Central Districts then saw loose forward Kyle Amer barge over for the South Island’s fourth.

Central Districts hit back 30 seconds before half time through Moses Galuvao shortening the half time deficit to six as the South Island went to the sheds with a 20 -14 lead.

Central Districts entered the second forty with all the momentum as centre Carlos Kemp earned his second try of the day reducing the deficit to just two. Winger Pose Tuilaepa then capitalised on a highball, skilfully planting it down to put Central Districts in the lead 22 – 20.

The momentum continued as winger Herman Seumanufagai went over for his second after a clinical offload from fullback Tipene Reweti. However, an error on their line gifted South Island winger Levi Collins with a try under the posts reducing it back to a two-point game.

Central District’s Malachi Ti’a soon spotted a gap and a powerhouse run saw him barge over for his first of the game, extending Central Districts lead 32-26.

South Island fullback Mapu Uasi reduced the deficit to two but Central Districts held on as the final hooter sounded 32-30.

4 March 2021

This Sunday 7 March clash between Central Districts and the South Island is the only game for Round Two due to the Covid-19 reschedule.

Central Districts are coming off a second half comeback loss to Auckland in which they will be looking to prove themselves against the South Island team. The South Island team will be looking to follow on from their convincing 56 to 14 victory over Northland.

PLEASE NOTE – This game will have NO CROWDS due to Covid-19 restrictions while the remaining Round Two games (Northland vs. Auckland White and Waicoa Bay vs. Auckland Blue) have been rescheduled to take place on Friday, 2 April in Opaheke, Auckland.

All National 20s games are available live on Sky Sport 4 and Fox League, Kayo and Watch NRL for our Australian viewers.

Central Districts v South Island

Jerry Collins Stadium, Wellington

Sunday 7th March 2021


February 28, 2021 / Will Evans

South Island made a huge statement in Round 1 of the New Zealand Rugby League National 20s competition, defeating Northland 56-14 with a blistering attacking performance at Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub in Christchurch.

Level 2 restrictions coming into effect on Sunday morning prevented spectators from attending the match – a shame given the perfect conditions on the last day of summer and the 13-try exhibition the combatants delivered.

A dominant performance from the South Island forwards laid the platform for the big victory, with lock Kyle Amer and props Junior Tuliakono and George Faavai partcularly strong. The likes of hooker Sincere Harraway, halfback Mesiah Asi and fullback Mapu Uasi – who scored a hat-trick among a 28-point individual haul – provided the polish, and centres Sala Faifale and Jack Skipper were a constant handful out wide.

After withstanding an early Northland assault on their line, South Island grabbed the ascendancy via a break from  Uasi and a clever kick from Harraway to force a line dropout.

From the resultant possession, captain Harraway darted from dummy-half and stepped through the Northland defence for the first try.

Both sides were guilty of a spate of errors in the ensuing period, but South Island capitalised when they were able to hang onto the ball. Harraway’s threat from acting half again troubled Northland, combining with towering prop Tuliakiono, who reached out to score.

Uasi’s second conversion made 12-0 to the hosts in even time.

Northland hit back after being piggybacked downfield by a penalty. Interchange forward Dilano Henry Turner muscled over out wide despite the attention of three South Island defenders.

But allowing the subsequent kick-off to bounce dead proved costly for the visitors. South Island halfback Mesiah Asi’s beautiful sleight of hand served up a try for powerhouse centre Sala Faifale, restoring a 12-point advantage.

Faifale did it all himself five minutes later, receiving the ball in space from a Northland error and spearing through gap to bag his second four-pointer.

Northland managed to stem the flow of points until halftime but the South Island assault continued immediately after the resumption. Kiarn Wilson scored in the first set of the second half after toeing the ball ahead twice, Uasi scored a 50-metre runaway try in South Island’s next possession, and bruising lock Kyle Amer powered over for a richly-deserved touchdown soon afterwards.

The scoreline ballooned to 46-6 as Uasi flashed over for his second in the right-hand corner – South Island’s fourth try in just 13 minutes of second-half action. The Linwood Keas CRL premiership winner completed a 10-minute hat-trick a couple of sets later – and brought up the half-century for the home side – scorching down the sideline and dotting down under the posts for another half-field try.

Left winger Vaione Saki was the beneficiary of quick hands from his inside men, diving over for a simple try and a 56-6 lead.

Some respite finally arrived for Northland during the last 10 minutes. Impressive fullback and captain Eroni Biukoto broke through South Island’s right-edge defence and outsprinted the cover defence to score out wide, before making another bust and combining with halfback Ioane Loto’atu to lay on a try for front-rower Nigel Iro.

South Island (Mapu Uasi 3, Sala Faifale 2, Sincere Harraway, Junior Tuilakiono, Kiarn Wilson, Kyle Amer, Vaione Saki tries; Uasi 8 goals) defeated Northland (D. Henry Turner, Biukoto, Iro tries; Biukoto goal) at Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub, Christchurch, Sunday 28th February. 

Auckland White emerged 30-16 winners over Wai-Coa-Bay in Rd 1 of the NZRL National 20s competition at Rotorua International Stadium.

The Auckland side were strong through the first half, scoring three tries via Kyson Kingi, Viliami Kuli and Corey Cassidy-Natano, with two conversions from halfback Doux Kauhiva giving them a 16-4 lead at halftime. 

Kingi opened the scoring on the right edge after eight minutes of play, followed by Kauhiva slicing through Wai-Coa-Bay’s defence to find Kuli.

On the 25th minute Wai-Coa-Bay’s second rower Rawiri Mathews put points on the board – following a 10 minute delay due to an injury – before Cassidy-Natano dotted down in the left corner. 

Wai-Coa-Bay hit first in the second spell, before Kuli made a huge break to give Te Napi Waipouri a four-pointer under the posts, followed by prop Tony Tafa crashing over to give the visitors a 26-10 lead.

Off the back of two penalties, Wai-Coa-Bay prop Aamon Dean burrowed over to reduce the deficit to 26-16, but Auckland’s Elam Payne hit back quickly to end any chance of a comeback.

Auckland White will play Northland on Saturday, March 6 at Takahiwai Rugby League Club.

Auckland White 30 (Kyson Kingi, Viliami Kuli, Corey Cassidy-Natano, Te Napi Waipouri, Tony Tafa, Elam Payne tries; Doux Kauhiva x3 conversions) def. Wai-Coa-Bay 16 (Rawiri Mathews, Te Ohomauri Rapana, Aamon Dean tries; Xavier Mitchell x2 conversions) at Rotorua International Stadium.

27 February 2021

A late surge saw Auckland Blue beat Central Districts 34-18 in the opening round of the NZRL National 20s at Opaheke Sports Park.

After trailing 18-12 at the break, Auckland Blue fought back with four second-half tries to record victory.

Earlier Central Districts prop Memphis Hennessy opened the scoring after just two minutes, before Auckland hit back via Stanley Iongi and Samuel Hansen.

But Central Districts didn’t go away and hooker Wyatt So-otaga sliced through defence to score on the 26th minute followed by another four-pointer to Kayin Katene to give them an 18-12 lead at half time.

In the second spell the momentum shifted when co-captain Zyon Maiu’u burrowed over on the 46th minute, before Iongi crossed for his second to extend the lead to 24-18.

Minutes later Maiu’u crashed over again, followed by a try to Mangere East’s Junior Moli to secure victory.

Halfback Caleb Laiman was excellent off the boot, converting all but one try.

Auckland Blue will play Wai-Coa-Bay at Rotorua International Stadium in Rd 2 next Saturday.

Auckland Blue 34 (Stanley Iongi x2, Samuel Hansen, Zyon Maiu’u x2, Junior Moli tries; Caleb Laiman x5 conversions) def. Central Districts 18 (Memphis Hennessy, Wyatt So-otaga, Kayin Katene tries; Brooklyn Herewini x3 conversions) at Opaheke Sports Park.

24 February 2021

New Zealand Rugby League will kick off its inaugural National 20s Competition this Saturday 27 February when Auckland Blue take on Central Districts at 2pm Opaheke Auckland, followed by Waicoa Bay v Auckland White at Rotorua International Stadium 4pm.

Sunday 28th will see the South Island take on Northland at 12pm down at Nga Puna Wai Stadium in Christchurch.

All games will be televised live on Sky Sport 4, and for Australian viewers games available on Fox League, Kayo and Watch NRL.

NZRL GM of High Performance and Football, Motu Tony says: “We have been working hard to improve the pathways we provide for our young rugby league players in New Zealand.”

“Our rangatahi are vital to the domestic and professional success of the code, the average age of an NRL debutant is now 21, so it’s crucial we are developing and strengthening this age group as much as we can at home. This competition also allows coaches, managers, trainers and match officials to gain further development and experience.

“The 20s Competition allows us to foster budding rugby league talent from up and down the country and the potential NZRL 2022 SG Ball team adds another layer of incentive for our young players.”

Saturday 27th Feb
Auckland Blue v Central Districts – 2pm Opaheke Auckland 
Waicoa Bay v Auckland White – 4pm Rotorua International Stadium 

Sunday 28th Feb
South Island v Northland – 12pm Nga Puna Wai Christchurch

Click here to keep up with all National 20s draws and results

As seen on

There is nothing quite like a Ruben Wiki workout on a muggy Auckland evening to help you drop a few kilograms. 

Just ask Auckland U20 squad member Jacob Leung-Wai Milo.  

In his first month of training with Wiki – who is working with Leung-Wai Milo’s Otara Scorpions this year – the 19-year-old has already lost 8kgs and believes there’s plenty more to drop yet. 

“It’s been a killer with Ruben, but he’s been helping me heaps,” Leung-Wai Milo said. 

“I’ve got heaps more to go I think. My goal weight is 110kg and right now I’m 120kg. 

“I buzz out sometimes when I look at Ruben when he’s talking to us.

“I was too young to have watched him play, but I watch clips of his runs off kick-offs, so I know a bit about him.”

Efforts to slim down come after a few years of adversity for Leung-Wai Milo, who had to forfeit his final year at Gold Coast league nursery Keebra Park State High School – famed for helping to develop NRL superstars such as Benji Marshall and Payne Haas – last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There were also back-to-back serious knee injuries in 2018 and 2019, resulting in two surgeries, one of which was a reconstruction. 

“I was pretty gutted for a few months there, but I’m over it now and have moved past it,” he said. 

“Keebra was a good experience. It was tough, the trainings were something else, especially the fitness. 

“While I was there I played against (current Queensland State of Origin player) Xavier Coates and played with guys like (2021 Brisbane Broncos trialist) Reece Walsh.

“I’m thankful to the people at my homestay in Aus who always pushed me to train and not sit there and feel sorry for myself with my knee problems. 

“One of their children did their knee at the same time so we were rehabbing and training together which helped.”

Ahead of his Auckland White side kicking off their NZRL National 20s campaign this Saturday against Wai-Coa-Bay in Rotorua, Leung-Wai Milo said preparations are tracking well.

“Trainings have been going well and we’ve been focussing a lot on the game plan we want to use for the competition,” he said. 

“It’s good to be gelling with guys my age. 

“Everyone is training really well and we are excited for the first game.”  

As seen on

When former rugby league superstar Ali Lauititi is your uncle and you happen to also be named after him, you’d better be handy with a rugby league ball. 

Luckily that’s the case for Papatoetoe Panthers product Ali Leiataua, with the talented fullback set to take the next step in his own promising league career by representing Auckland in the NZRL National 20s competition which kicks off this weekend. 

As the first boy in his family, Leiataua was named after his mum Tala’s brother Ali, who at the time of his nephew’s birth in January 2003 had just come off a spectacular NRL campaign with the New Zealand Warriors in which he was named the competition’s best second-rower.

“We talk heaps of footy. He comes over most days and we chat,” Leiataua said of his relationship with his uncle. 

“I’d just been born in his last few years at the Warriors, so I was too young to remember, but I’ve seen lots of clips of him playing and he was a pretty damaging ball runner.

“A few times we have had a game in the backyard… he’s still got it, he’s a bit unfit now but you can tell he still has it in him!

“We are different builds, but he still thinks he can beat me in a race.

“He’s very competitive and I think that’s where I get it from.”

In good news for the Auckland Blue side, Leiataua’s tip sheet includes ideas on replicating uncle Ali’s renowed offload game. 

“He’s told me to always try and get that ball free when I run and to always keep the ball in two hands to keep the opposition in two minds, and that way you always have an option for a fend,” Leiataua said.

“When he’s not busy he comes and watches, or if it’s on TV he watches, and he’s like a little game review guy for me.

“He’ll come over and sit me down for a chat and tell me what I did do well and what I didn’t do well.”

Linking up with the Auckland U20s marks Leiataua’s return to league, after spending last season playing school rugby union. 

“I missed league, it’s my bread and butter. It’s good to get back into it,” Leiataua said. 

“It’s been good to play league again, it had been a while.

“When I turned up at the trial there were a few familiar faces I played with and against.

“It’s something new playing with the older boys – there’s guys in the team who are two years older than me – so physically it’s a little bit harder, but with training so consistently it’s been good so far.”

29 January 2021

New Zealand Rugby League will kick off its inaugural National 20s Competition on Saturday 27 February 2021. The round-robin competition will play over five consecutive weeks with the two top placed teams set to face off in the final the weekend of April 2.

The NZRL National 20s Competition involves six teams from across New Zealand with Zones and appropriate Districts represented.

Auckland hosts two teams as Auckland Rugby League, Akarana and Counties Manukau join forces to create an Auckland Blue and Auckland White team. Other teams represented include Northland; Wai-Coa Bay, with the inclusion of Waikato, Hauraki, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Coastline Districts; Central Districts, including Manawatu, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay and Wellington; and South Island, including Tasman, Canterbury, West Coast, Aoraki, Southland and Otago Districts.

The NZRL National 20s Competition will showcase future Kiwis from across the country as this inaugural comp looks to shine a spotlight on New Zealand’s development talent as they pave their way for elite professional contracts.

All games will be televised live on Sky Sport, Sky Sport Now and for Australian viewers, Kayo and FOXSPORTS Linear.

December 9, 2020

New Zealand Rugby League will kick off its inaugural National 20s Competition on Saturday 27 February 2021. The round-robin competition will play over five consecutive weeks with the two top placed teams set to face off in the final the weekend of April 2.

The NZRL National 20s Competition will involve six teams from across New Zealand with Zones and appropriate Districts represented.

Auckland will host two teams as Auckland Rugby League, Akarana and Counties Manukau join forces to create an Auckland Blue and Auckland White team. Other teams represented include Northland; Wai-Coa Bay, with the inclusion of Waikato, Hauraki, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne and Coastline Districts; Central Districts, including Manawatu, Taranaki, Hawkes Bay and Wellington; and South Island, including Tasman, Canterbury, West Coast, Aoraki, Southland and Otago Districts.

This year the NZRL National Youth Tournament will move to a 16s and 18s age group format as opposed to its previous 15s and 17s structure to coincide with both Sport NZ’s ‘Balance is Better’ philosophy, as well as the NSW and QLD age group competitions.

With this shift in age categories, NZRL will provide an additional three years of growth and development opportunities for players here in New Zealand with 16s, 18s and now 20s pathways. NZRL will take this a step further come 2022 by entering an NZRL U19 team into the NSW SG Ball competition.

The NZRL National 20s Competition will not only showcase New Zealand’s domestic game but it will provide Clubs and Districts with the opportunity to recruit and retain rangatahi talent, an age group notorious for significant drop-offs in sporting activity according to Sport NZ.

NZRL GM of High Performance and Football, Motu Tony says: “We have been working hard to improve the pathways we provide for our young rugby league players in New Zealand.”

“Our rangatahi are vital to the domestic and professional success of the code, the average age of an NRL debutant is now 21, so it’s crucial we are developing and strengthening this age group as much as we can at home. This competition also allows coaches, managers, trainers and match officials to gain further development and experience.

“The 20s Competition allows us to foster budding rugby league talent from up and down the country and the potential NZRL 2022 SG Ball team adds another layer of incentive for our young players.”

Fixture list and venue confirmation will be finalised in the coming weeks.