02 February 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Māori All Stars team:

Briton Nikora (Kiwi #818)

Chanel Harris-Tavita

Dylan Walker

Erin Clark

Esan Marsters (Kiwi #809)

James Fisher-Harris (Kiwi #801)

Jayden Nikorima

Jazz Tevaga

Jordan Rapana (Kiwi #798)

Joseph Tapine (Kiwi #800)

Kenny Bromwich (Kiwi #796)

Kevin Proctor (Kiwi #771)

Kodi Nikorima (Kiwi #793)

Morgan Harper

Pasami Saulo

Patrick Herbert

Reimis Smith

Royce Hunt

TC Robati

Tuku Hau Tapuha

02 February 2022

Māori All-Stars Head Coach, Keith Hanley, has called upon both experienced and fresh Kiwi Ferns to make a solid All-Stars spine in their bid to go back to back against the Indigenous All Stars Women next Saturday.

Kiwi Fern Captain Krystal Rota is a notable inclusion as she’s joined by her Newcastle and Kiwi Fern teammates, Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly, and Katelyn Vaha’akolo, both set to make their debuts in the green and white and NRLW this season.

Bay of Plenty rugby union convert Autumn-Rain Stephens enjoyed a meteoric rise after only switching to rugby league in 2020. During her inaugural Test against Fetu Samoa, Stephens stole the show, earning herself the 2020 Kiwi Fern Rookie of the Year.

Former Upper Central Stallion Mya Hill-Moana returns to the squad after debuting for the All-Stars in 2020, while Hanley calls on the experience of Kiwi Fern talents; Raecene McGregor, Nita Maynard and Rona Peters.

Former Manurewa Marlin, Jocephy Daniels was the youngest player to lead the NZ Māori Wāhine Toa side when they took on the Australian Indigenous in Sydney in 2018. Earning an Eels call up for the NRLW, she’s also set to make her debut for the Māori All-Stars next Saturday.

“I’m knowledgeable about the Māori culture, and so I want to help share that culture with the Australian-based girls to give them another perspective.” – Jocephy Daniels.

The match will be the first occasion the All-Stars teams have played in Sydney since the concept began in 2010 on the Gold Coast, and it will be the first official fixture of the 2022 NRL season.

The women’s clash will kick off at 7:20 pm on Saturday, February 12, at CommBank Stadium, with the men’s match to follow at 10:10 pm.

Māori All Stars (Wāhine)

Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly (KF #150)

Botille Vette-Welsh

Corban Baxter (c)

Jocephy Daniels

Katelyn Vaha’akolo (KF #149)

Kennedy Cherrington

Krystal Rota (KF #123)

Lavinia Gould

Mya Hill-Moana (KF #154)

Nita Maynard (KF #137)

Olivia Kernick

Page McGregor

Raecene McGregor (KF #139)

Rona Peters (KF #75)

Roxette Mura

Shannon Mato

Tiana Raftstrand-Smith

Zahara Temara

Coach: Keith Hanley

01 June 2021

New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) is pleased to confirm a busy NZ16s and NZ18s representative schedule for the year in liaison with New Zealand Māori Rugby League (NZMRL) and Auckland Rugby League (ARL).

NZRL recently announced the selection of an NZ18s Girls Schools team off the back of the inaugural NZRL Secondary Schools Girl’s Competition in August. The NZ18s Girls will take on the Auckland 18s Girls on Sunday, 3 October.

The Auckland 18s side will be selected off the back of the Auckland Rugby League (ARL) Region of Origin. The ARL Region of Origin provides a pathway for players unavailable to participate in the NZRL Secondary Schools or NZMRL Rangatahi Tournaments to represent Auckland in a trial game against New Zealand Secondary School Girls.

ARL CEO Greg Whaiapu says: “It’s really exciting to be able to offer up these opportunities for our local Auckland players and we’re looking forward to being part of the NZRL’s annual competitions.”

“The girls-specific grades are the fastest growing area of our game right now and it’s an important next step that we continue to offer more opportunities for our players and coaches in those grades to earn honours at a higher level.

“We also want to encourage and help the other districts around New Zealand to keep growing the female game.” 

New Zealand Māori Rugby League (NZMRL) will select a squad to participate in the Pasifika Aotearoa Collective Tournament (15th – 17th October) off the back of their NZMRL Rangatahi Tournament over Queen’s Birthday weekend in June.

John Devonshire, NZMRL Chairman, says, “This is an outstanding opportunity for our seven foundation member nations to come together in an inaugural Pasifika Aotearoa Collective (PAC) rangatahi side.”

“For so long we have competed against each other at many levels, the opportunity for our Cook Island, Fijian, Niuean, NZ Māori, Samoan, Tongan and Tokelauns to play together side by side is incredible. We are grateful to Motu Tony and the NZRL for this opportunity to create our own PAC history.”

From there, NZMRL will then finalise their 18s Kotiro team to take on the NZ18s Girls at the NZMRL Tuakana Tournament in Rotorua on October 23rd.

John Devonshire, adds, “For our Māori Kotiro 18’s side to participate in this historical match is right. NZ Māori, along with the ARL have been the key drivers in the kotiro space. The match is a reflection of the momentum that kotiro rugby league is having in NZ. Well done Lui and the NZRL; this has been a long time in the making, it is here now – bring it on!”

The NZMRL Tuakana Tournament will also play host to a clash between the NZ Resident 16s and the Pasifika Aotearoa Collective 17s (Boys).

The NZ Resident 16s team will comprise of the best players from the NZRL National Youth Tournament held in early October, while the Pasifika Aotearoa Collective 17s will be the merit team selected from the Pasifika Aotearoa Collective Tournament.

Luisa Avaiki, Head of Women’s Rugby League at NZRL, says the new representative clashes are huge milestones for the game.

“It’s so exciting to provide these playing opportunities which reflect the hard mahi going into growing and developing our women’s space across the country.”

“Thank you to ARL and NZMRL, who have pioneered the girls game for many years now. It’s exciting to come together and provide opportunities for girls to play rugby league at a representative level. It adds a layer of incentive and fosters further pathways that encourage participation growth and player development.

“I can’t wait to see what the girls produce come the end of the year.”

NZ18s Schools v Clubs also returns for its second year, which will see the best 18s players from the NZRL Secondary School Competition and NZRL Youth Tournament face off in October. NZRL will release further detail on the clash in due course.

30 April 2021 As seen on RNZ by Talei Anderson

With the support of New Zealand Rugby League, six nations have joined forces to promote Māori and Pasifika rugby league in New Zealand, with the launch of the Pasifika Aotearoa Rugby League Collective.

Organisations representing Tokelau, Fiji, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Niue and the New Zealand Māori Rugby League signed a memorandum of understanding in Auckland last night, with support from NZRL, acknowledging a partnership of working together moving forward.

Auckland Niue Rugby League secretary Phillip Tasmania said they aim to bring Māori and Pasifika communities together through rugby league with culture at the forefront.

“We want to bring our communities together while keeping our values and culture,” he said.

“It’s also about working with the regions and going out to our Pasifika and Māori communities that are out in those regions and supporting them, showing them the system and templates we use to run tournaments and recreating those events in those areas which we’ve already started in places like Whangārei and Wellington.”

The group first met in 2016 after some New Zealand based Pacific Island nations struggled to field teams for tournaments.

After a lot of hard work, Auckland Niue Rugby League now have 400 players registered.

“We were a mess, we were a team made up of every other nation,” Tasmania admitted.

“There are no more meetings under the trees. You’ve got to use the mainstream system to progress this and our families and people respect that.”

All six members of the Pasifika Aotearoa Rugby League Collective are equal, he added.

“No ones flag is bigger than the others. Our [Niue] flag is the same size as New Zealand, the same size as Tonga … we get equal say which is good, we all bring different things to the table. It’s about respect and it’s a core value as a collective moving ahead.”

Hengi Fusitua from Hakula Tonga Aoteroa New Zealand said the Collective want to ensure playing rugby league is affordable for both Māori and Pasifika families.

“Our drive is to make sports affordable for our kids, because we have seen it at grass roots where mums turn up with five kids and have to hand pick which one can play because she can’t afford to pay the fees,” he said.

“Now we’re able to eliminate that [which will mean] more participation for our people so for us, cost is really high on the agenda, but also collectively, we want to see all the cultures together.”

For Tokelau, the Collective is as an opportunity to empower, unite and help grow the game of rugby league within the Tokelauan communities in Aotearoa.

“I’m excited for the generations, for the young players both males and females, but more so that we now know there are stepping stones for them in terms of playing field but more importantly of support people,” explained Luther Toloa.

Meanwhile an under 17s Pasifika Aotearoa Collective merit team will be selected from the New Zealand Māori Rugby League Tuakana tournament and Pacific Youth Cup to play the New Zealand under 16s at the end of October in Rotorua.

New Zealand Māori Rugby League chairman John Devonshire said it was just the beginning, with tournaments progressing and growing over the years.

“For me the biggest thing was representing our culture, cultural awareness and cultural identity not being lost,” he said.

“Every nation acknowledged New Zealand Māori as the haukāinga or tangata whenua of the motu, of the land, of Aotearoa, and that made it pretty special for us that we wanted to be part of this.”

22 February 2021

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

7: STACEY JONES KIWI #665 – NGĀTI MANIAPOTO/NGĀPUHI

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

9: BENJI MARSHALL KIWI #717 – NGĀI TUHOE

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

13: RUBEN WIKI KIWI #655 – NGĀPUHI

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

20: HONEY HIREME-SMILER KIWI FERN #62 – NGĀTI RAUKAWA/NGĀI HAUA/WAIKATO-TAINUI

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

Most influential Māori sportspeople of the past 30 years

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

22nd February 2021

Indigenous skipper Cody Walker admitted he was to blame for the penalty goal miscommunication that resulted in a 10-all draw with the Maori All Stars because he didn’t get coach Laurie Daley’s message to go for the win.

Trailing 10-8 with just over a minute on the clock Walker opted to take a penalty shot from a James Fisher-Harris penalty unaware there would be no golden point extra-time.

Daley said he “wanted to go for the try” but Walker couldn’t see any message when he looked to the bench and assumed levelling up the scores was the best play believing they’d have extra-time to decide the match.

Instead the game ended in a draw for the first time in the history of the All Stars game and the teams shared the Arthur Beetson Trophy.

“I turned around and I thought it was golden point,” Walker said.

Daley said although he wanted his team to go for the win he considered the draw a fair result.

“I think when you look at it overall of course we would have loved to have won but I think you just saw two passionate proud cultures having a crack right til the death,” Daley said.

“We made it extremely hard for ourselves, we didn’t have any good ball, we turned it over, we were ill-disciplined at times but the commitment to defend and just keep turning up was as good as I’ve seen.”

In a low-scoring game there were moments of brilliance and desperation from both sides.

Latrell Mitchell came up with a classy grubber kick for Alex Johnston to score in the 64th minute to give the Indigenous All Stars a sniff of victory.

For the Maori side it was their experience that led the way with Benji Marshall instrumental from halfback and James Fisher-Harris fittingly awarded the Preston Campbell Medal as man of the match despite his costly penalty late in the game.

Fisher-Harris made 137 metres from 16 hit-ups and also made 26 tackles in a typically powerful performance.

Just three weeks after his glittering career appeared over, Marshall capped his surprise career extension with South Sydney by leading the New Zealand side in his debut appearance for the Maori.

With Jahrome Hughes and his five Melbourne Maori teammates stranded in Victoria due to COVID travel restrictions, Marshall stepped into the No.7 jersey with a superb performance that proved there are many miles left in his 35-year-old legs.

Marshall led an emotion-charged haka prior to kick off but after a tryless first half it was his sublime short ball to Jordan Riki that finally broke the stalemate as the Maori capitalised on the superior possession and field position.

The veteran playmaker was the calm amid a frenetic storm as errors upon errors left both sides unable to really hit their attacking groove in a game dominated by desperate defence.

“It’s not about trophies for us. It would’ve been good to win it but at the end of the day there’s a bigger picture,” said Maori coach David Kidwell.

“I’m just immensely proud of my boys. They put everything out there tonight and I couldn’t be happier for them.”

22 February 2021

Captain Corban McGregor praised her team for “keeping the foot on the throat” as the Maori team delivered an emphatic 24-0 win over the Indigenous All Stars in a thoroughly one-sided contest.

The Maori women led 12-0 after just 11 minutes and, fearing an Indigenous comeback, McGregor pulled her team together in a huddle to remind them the job was far from done in front of a vocal home crowd for the Indigenous women in Townsville.

Not only did the Maori side keep the Indigenous women scoreless, they ran in three more tries to ensure a dominant victory, avenging last year’s tough 10-4 loss on the Gold Coast.

“It was super important and we used that exact term after the second try, let’s keep the foot on the throat and keep leading and pushing as hard as we can,” said McGregor.

“They are a strong side and they have some power coming back and we knew that if we gave them a chance they’d make the most of it so we definitely just wanted to keep dominating through the middle and things opened up for us.

“I had a taste of this game last year and we didn’t come out on top so there was fire in the belly to get the win tonight.”

Maori coach Keith Hanley was ecstatic with the result as his team – minus all their New Zealand-based players – produced a complete performance with powerful defence, skill and precision.

Whether it was halfback Zahara Temara orchestrating tries from pinpoint grubber kicks or the rampaging runs of front-row duo Rona Peters and 18-year-old rookie Mya Hill-Moana, the Maori women just had an answer for everything.

“We couldn’t possibly have scripted that,” Hanley said.

“Obviously it was still a very competitive contest. Credit to the Indigenous side. They never faded and never went away and again we just re-emphasize our love and respect for them.

“We have a very gifted group and they certainly came together today and were all singing the same theme song.”

Raecene McGregor won the player of the match award with her two-try effort while sister Page McGregor chimed in with a try of her own for a family treble.

Indigenous coach Ian Bourke said his team could never get themselves into the contest as sloppy handling in the wet conditions cost them dearly.

“We certainly learned the hard way tonight,” Bourke said.

“But I think the girls will learn a fair bit out of it.

“I don’t know the average age but it’s hovering probably around 20 to 21 and let’s be honest, that compared to the opposition is pretty experienced in key positions and unfortunately we couldn’t get into the rhythm or feel as though the energy was there.

“I’m definitely proud of the girls in the back end of the game.

“It’s not about the short-term event. It’s the long-term plan for the program.”

Indigenous skipper Tallisha Harden said her team were devastated by the result but it would only strengthen their resolve to become better footballers.

“The emotion at the end, a lot of them are pretty heartbroken,” she said.

“It’s tough when you lose but we’ll bounce back and I’m really excited to see what the girls do next and their pathway for the rest of the year.”

Brandon Smith stamped himself as a player to watch in 2020 with a stunning two-try performance to lead the New Zealand Maori to a stunning 30-16 come-from-behind victory over the Indigenous All Stars on the Gold Coast.

The Kiwi Test hooker, who plays understudy to 400-game legend Cameron Smith at the Melbourne Storm, showed his time in the shadows is clearly over with a spirited effort to snatch at Cbus Super Stadium.

 

Davis-Welsh, Harden lead Indigenous Women’s All Stars to glory

Indigenous All Stars winger Nakia Davis-Welsh turned in a blinder to inspire a 10-4 win over the Maori Ferns after a triumphant return to the team she debuted for as a 16-year-old.

Maori All Stars coach David Kidwell has selected an imposing pack to lock horns with the talented Indigenous team at Cbus Super Stadium on February 22.

The Maori side shouldn’t lack go-forward with Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Adam Blair, Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, James Tamou, Kevin Proctor, Briton Nikora, Zane Tetevano and Corey Harawira-Naera among an elite crop of big men chosen.

“We wanted to have a bit of a narrative about being powerful, fast and dynamic. I think the team reflects that,” Kidwell told NRL.com.

The backline packs plenty of punch too. The dazzling Kalyn Ponga will play his natural position of fullback after struggling to impose himself on the game at five-eighth last year in a 34-14 loss.

“I think that’s where he plays his best footy, he can sweep both sides of the field, he can inject himself where he needs to,” Kidwell said of Ponga.

“Touching on that forward pack, he can sniff around for the offload. Talking to him, he’s really excited. He doesn’t have to worry about leading the team around.”

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Bailey Simonsson appear as the likely wingers, while Dylan Walker, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Brad Takairangi and Esan Marsters are centre options.

Marsters, who had off-season ankle surgery, is in doubt to play and discussions with the Cowboys medical staff about his fitness are ongoing.

Given Benji Marshall made himself unavailable for Maori selection to prepare for the upcoming NRL season with Wests Tigers, Jahrome Hughes and Kodi Nikorima will combine in the halves.

Brandon Smith and the experienced Issac Luke will share the hooking duties.

Raiders duo Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Joseph Tapine were initially named but were withdrawn.

Kidwell, who has taken over the coaching duties from Stacey Jones, is elated to be involved with such a special fixture and believes his troops can match the Indigenous team in the entertainment stakes.

“We’re going to play a bit of an expansive style of football. I thought the Indigenous team, with the experience of having played it for nine years, really caught us off guard last year.

“It’s a different concept, it’s a different way of playing football … [But] you still have to execute and have a high completion rate, so it’s about finding that balance.”

Kidwell hasn’t settled on a captain but he said incumbent skipper Adam Blair “epitomises what the week’s about.”

He added: “I’ve got some great leaders there and we’ll talk about who’s going to captain the side. But whoever does, it’s going to be a great honour.”

Kidwell considered results from an online fan poll before settling on his final squad.

In the women’s All Stars clash the star-studded Maori side will feature Kiwi Ferns Krystal Rota, Raecene McGregor and Kiana Takairangi as well as Jillaroos Corban McGregor and Botille Vette-Welsh.

Playmaker McGregor was part of the Brisbane side which stormed to victory in the NRLW grand final last October, scoring a try in the 30-6 triumph.

After playing second fiddle to McGregor in the NRLW decider, Dragons youngster Maddison Weatherall will line up alongside the Broncos star for the Maoris.

Coached by Rusty Matua the side features 10 players with NRLW experience.

Maori Women’s All Stars: Harata Butler, Sarina Clark, Tanika-Jazz Noble-Bell, Laishon Jones, Amber Kani, Kerehitina Matua, Raecene McGregor, Corban McGregor, Capri Paekau, Krystal Rota, Christyl Stowers, Kiana Takairangi, Jonsal Tautari, Botille Vette-Welsh, Maddison Weatherall, Geneva Webber, Kathleen Wharton, Kat Wira-Kohu.

Troy Whittaker – NRL.com

 

Grassroots rugby league will be given a huge boost when the England Community Lions and Country Rugby League of New South Wales both tour New Zealand in October this year.

The tours will provide opportunities for New Zealand players to take on the visiting teams with the matches involving the Community Lions being broadcast live on SKY Sport.

The England Community Lions will kick off their first-ever New Zealand tour with a match against a North Island Championship Selection at Owen Delany Park in Taupo on October 24.

They’ll then feature against the New Zealand Māori Residents XIII team at the New Zealand Māori Rugby League National Tuakana Tournament in Rotorua on Sunday, October 27, with a third match to be announced soon.

The Country Rugby League of NSW team will play the same North Island Championship Selection taking on the Community Lions at the NZRL Youth Tournament at Pukerawhero Park in Rotorua on October 8, followed by an encounter with the Rockcote Canterbury Bulls at the new Christchurch home of rugby league, Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub, on October 12.

“This is extremely exciting for our local game,” said NZRL CEO Greg Peters.

“With the Community Lions’ games being televised live, these matches will attract national audiences and further showcase the undeniable regional talent we have on offer. We’re very thankful to SKY Sport for their ongoing support.

“Going forward we’re looking to provide more regular opportunities to further enhance the quality of our grassroots game for both our men’s and women’s teams, as well as for international teams wanting to make the trip down under.

“We’re thrilled that our local game will be showcased nationwide during a busy international calendar. It’s an exciting time for rugby league at all levels.”

Rugby Football League international manager Alan Davidson said: “There is a buzz around the squad who are all eager to travel and challenge themselves against very good opposition.

“As the England Community Lions are made up of amateur players from across the country, having the opportunity to travel to the other side of the world is something that doesn’t come around too often.

“This is the first time the Community Lions have toured New Zealand and the players are looking forward to not only the caliber of games lined up but also the chance to be able to experience the Kiwi culture and visit different places across the country.”

Country Rugby League of NSW CEO Terry Quinn said his organization was looking forward to the upcoming tour and the benefits it will bring.

“This is the first time Country Rugby League will tour New Zealand with our Men’s Under-23’s Representative side so we are extremely excited,” Quinn said.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for some of the brightest talent in regional New South Wales to showcase their skill and compete against players they wouldn’t normally compete against, as well as experience a different culture.

“The relationship we have with the New Zealand Rugby League is one we are hoping to continue for many years, and this tour is a fantastic opportunity for Australian and New Zealand Rugby League to unite.”

 

🐍 Congratulations to the following Men who have been selected from the North Island Championship competition to play in…

Posted by Mid Central Zone Rugby League on Tuesday, 24 September 2019

By NRL.com Reporter, Chris Kennedy

After a one-year hiatus, a revamped NRL Harvey Norman All Stars fixture is back on the calendar with the New Zealand Māori to take on the Indigenous All Stars for the first time.

The move is a positive one with the Māori to present a welcome – and no doubt passionate – addition to the fixture.

Both teams will boast some huge names as well as some scintillating young talent.

While the Indigenous side will be without the likes of Ryan James and Greg Inglis (both knee), and Ben Barba (deregistered) and the Māori team has lost Jordan McLean (Townsville floods), their absences present opportunities to other players.

They won’t have an easy time of it against a Māori side boasting a stack of Test talent including Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Dane Gagai, Peta Hiku, Adam Blair, Tohu Harris, Kevin Proctor, James Tamou and Dean Whare.

What you need to know

Key Match-up

Cody Walker and Tyrone Roberts v Kalyn Ponga and Jahrome Hughes. The two halves pairings in this match have boundless ability. For the Indigenous side, Walker and Roberts bring plenty of experience, calm heads and, in Roberts, the most developed kicking game from either team.

While Walker is one of the code’s most dangerous running halves the Māori team still has the edge in this department with Ponga and Hughes both still better-recognised as dangerous running fullbacks despite each spending time in the halves last season.

With the squads having so little time to gel there is a chance the game plan goes out the window – which would play into the Māori pair’s hands – but any extra control and polish Roberts and Walker can add could well prove the difference in even an unstructured contest.

For the Indigenous All Stars to win

The injury to Ryan James leaves the Indigenous squad a little light on for props. They have one of the most dangerous big men on the planet in Andrew Fifita but for the Indigenous side to triumph, he will need some good support from the likes of promising but uncapped rookie Kerr and journeymen Leilani Latu and Chris Smith to match it with a powerful Māori pack that has five middle forwards with Test experience in the squad.

For the Māori All Stars to win

You can all but guarantee that potent pack will create some attacking sets for the Māori side. While none of their playmakers (which also includes fullback Peta Hiku and hooker Brandon Smith) is playing out of position as such, each is playing in a jersey number which has not been their regular one at NRL level. The question is whether something of a makeshift spine can come together in time to create enough point-scoring opportunities to win the match – if they can do that they’ll go a long way towards claiming the trophy.

Indigenous Stat Attack

Players from the Indigenous squad were near the top of some significant stats in the Telstra Premiership last season. Winger Blake Ferguson finished best for total and average metres with 4862 at 203 per game. Andrew Fifita’s 70 offloads were the second-best of all players while his 105 busts were the second-most of any forward.

When it comes to line breaks, Ferguson (19), Walker (18), Mitchell (17) and Addo-Carr (16) were all in the top 10 of the competition. There’s no doubt this squad contains some of the most dangerous ball-runners in the game right now.

Māori Stat Attack

The weight of Test experience in favour of the Māori side is startling. In total the Indigenous squad has 33 Test caps shared among five players. The Māori team has a whopping 223 Test caps among 17 players. In fact, from the entire squad only the two halves and Corey Harawira-Naera are yet to represent their nation in a Test and even then it’s probably just a matter of time.

These numbers include starts for Tier 2 nations but the gulf only gets wider if you trim it to just Tier 1 caps – the Indigenous squad have nine Tongan caps between Fifita and Latu while the Māori team have four Cook Islands jerseys between Brad Takairangi and Esan Marsters. The remaining 219 Test starts for the Māori side are all for Australia (Dane Gagai and James Tamou) and New Zealand. Adam Blair’s 47 Kiwi Test caps outnumber the entire Indigenous squad’s Test experience.

Maroons and Kangaroos back Dane Gagai is one of a handful of players in the NRL to qualify for both teams and this year becomes the first player to represent both the Indigenous and Māori All Stars. Gagai’s cousin and one-time Indigenous All Star Josh Hoffman could potentially become another in future

Televised

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Indigenous All Stars

Bevan French (Eels); Blake Ferguson (Eels), James Roberts (Broncos), Latrell Mitchell (Roosters), Josh Addo-Carr (Storm); Cody Walker (Rabbitohs), Tyrone Roberts (Titans); Andrew Fifita (Sharks), Nathan Peats (Titans), Josh Kerr (Dragons), David Fifita (Broncos), Adam Elliott (Bulldogs), Tyrone Peachey (Titans). Interchange: Will Chambers (Storm), Leilani Latu (Titans), Chris Smith (Bulldogs), Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs), Jesse Ramien (Knights), Tyrell Fuimaono (Panthers), Kotoni Staggs (Broncos).

New Zealand Māori All Stars

Peta Hiku (Warriors); Dane Gagai (Rabbitohs), Esan Marsters (Wests Tigers), Dean Whare (Panthers), Jordan Kahu (Broncos); Kalyn Ponga (Knights), Jahrome Hughes (Storm); Jesse Bromwich (Storm), Brandon Smith (Storm), James Tamou (Panthers), Kevin Proctor (Titans), Tohu Harris (Warriors), Adam Blair (Warriors). Interchange:Danny Levi (Knights), Brad Takairangi (Eels), James Fisher-Harris (Panthers),  Gerard Beale (Warriors), Corey Harawira-Naera (Bulldogs), Joseph Tapine (Raiders), Kenny Bromwich (Cowboys)