As seen on nzherald.co.nz
As Kiwis fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad ran on to the field on Saturday against the Kangaroos in Hamilton, he repeated a simple mantra.
It had been on his mind all week, as he promised himself – and his teammates – that he would deliver.
I can, he said quietly. And I will.
But this was more than just motivation, as he was battling the odds.
The 28-year-old produced a man of the match performance, in easily the best game of his international career. And he did it despite a broken rib, which meant he couldn’t train fully over the past two weeks, after the bone was smashed up against Samoa at Eden Park.
“It was really painful in the Samoan game,” Nicoll-Klokstad told the Herald. “It was a bit sore last week. I had to get two separate painkilling jabs and have a huge pad. But it came back to that mentality thing; I missed the mark mentally last week.”
There were many heroes on Saturday as the Kiwis completed a famous victory over the Kangaroos – just their second in 10 clashes since 2016 – with their 30-0 triumph. But Nicoll-Klokstad typified the desire, determination and camaraderie in this squad.
It was only his fourth test at fullback but the kind of performance that will be long remembered, especially given the physical baggage. Three weeks ago, against Samoa, he felt an instant rush of pain as he braced for contact in a tackle. It was a good, legal hit but something wasn’t quite right and it was more than a knock.
”It happened early in the game, 15 minutes in,” said Nicoll-Klokstad. “I ran off the field at halftime to get it jabbed and that’s when they found out.”
It made the following week a challenge, as the Kiwis prepared to play Australia in Melbourne.
”That was the hardest,” said Nicoll-Klokstad. “I had to get my head around moving with it and knowing that, yep, it was broken and I’ve just got to get through the session.”
He didn’t do any contact work but still couldn’t avoid reminders.
”I couldn’t even sneeze, that was a bit painful,” he said, also feeling while it sleeping. It was a compromised preparation and he was far from his best in Melbourne, as the Kiwis were outpointed 36-18.
Nicoll-Klokstad was pinned in his own territory for much of the match, unable to impose himself on the game.
”It was a good learning curve for me personally, I felt I was a little bit too much in my head and missed my assignment,” he said. “I didn’t play the standard I wanted to play and it came back to a mentality thing.”
”I was really looking forward to this week because I knew I could be a lot better, getting back to what I know how to do. It was simple; I just had a phrase in my head the whole week. It was – ‘I can and I will’.”
Before Saturday’s match he had injections in two separate areas to numb the area, popped a couple of painkillers and strapped a large pad over his left chest.
”Then I was good to go.”
And what a display. He made 277 metres from 30 carries, with six tackle busts. He created two line breaks, set up a try with a reflex pass and organised his defence superbly.
”I wanted to make amends,” said Nicoll-Klokstad. “Be better, be my best. Hopefully the boys are proud of the effort.”
With jubilant fans staying on a long time around the final whistle, the magnitude of the victory began to sink in.
”I’m honoured, proud, grateful – so many emotions and feelings,” said Nicoll-Klokstad. “First win against Australia and what a way to do it too.”
His proud coach Maguire summed up the effort.
“He actually wasn’t meant to play,” admitted Maguire. “It just goes to show what players will do when they are playing for their country. He wasn’t quite sure after the Samoan game if he would keep going but he didn’t want to leave [camp] and when you have got things like that going on within your group and then good leadership, you come up with some special performances.”
Read more on nzherald.co.nz
Kiwis’ winger Ronaldo Mulitalo has found personal redemption.
Mulitalo capped off a difficult three weeks – revealing he had copped plenty of online abuse and vitriol during the Pacific Championships campaign – with a brilliant display in the Kiwis’ 30-0 win over Australia in Hamilton.
The negativity is nothing new for Mulitalo. For more than two years he has faced questions, jibes and doubts over his commitment to his country of birth, after the controversial State of Origin eligibility drama in 2021.
Mulitalo was born and raised in Auckland, playing for the Ellerslie Eagles, among other clubs, before his family emigrated to Brisbane when he was 13. He represented Queensland at the Under-18 and Under-20 levels and was called up for Origin in 2021, before being dramatically scratched 24 hours before kickoff, as a check of the revised rules found he was ineligible, due to his arrival in the Sunshine State after his 13th birthday.
That caused a media storm at the time – with many questioning the inept administration that led to the blunder – while Mulitalo was devastated.
“Heartbroken and lost for words,” he wrote on social media. “All I wanted to do was don this Maroon jersey and represent this great state.
That led to questions, when he was selected for New Zealand last year, that it was only his fallback option.
But there can’t be any doubts about his commitment now. He was a strong performer at last year’s World Cup, then had his finest match in the black and white V last Saturday, with numerous telling interventions in the stunning victory, also scoring his eighth try in nine tests.
“One of the things that tested me was people questioning my pride in New Zealand and my jersey,” said Mulitalo. “But when I set my mind to something and it means something to me, I go balls-out for it and it definitely feels like that, showing my pride in this jersey and what it means to me. I’m not just here because I’m here, I’m here to bring my game and put some pride in the jersey.
Mulitalo said he had put the “whole saga” of the Queensland episode behind him – ”I’ve moved on with my life” – even if a lot of other people haven’t.
“The whole week I have been getting abused, the whole campaign, from certain people for different things,” the 23-year-old said. “I’ve just been getting hammered, not only online. My family sees stuff like that and I just really wanted to come out with a statement. I know that this game meant so much to New Zealand in general and the game of rugby league in New Zealand. Hopefully there [were] some kids in the crowd or watching on television that saw how proud they could be of New Zealand and be in this jersey one day.”
Mulitalo was electric, particularly in the first half. Two long-range line breaks sparked the Kiwis – and the crowd – as did his celebrations after the first try, his eighth in nine tests. He also soared, AFL-style, to claim a defensive goal-line drop-out – which defused pressure at a crucial stage – and produced one of the hits of the season on Valentine Holmes, flattening the Kangaroos winger.
“I don’t even remember the hit – I just got up,” said Mulitalo. “I don’t normally tackle so it was unfamiliar waters that I was in. I got up, [carried] on like a goose and hopefully [gave] the boys a bit of a lift.”
Though the Kiwis won’t reassemble until next October – due to the NRL’s unfortunate scheduling – the memory of what unfolded last Saturday will last a long time.
“I’m super proud of the whole group,” said Mulitalo. “How we have pulled ourselves together, representing our country like that means the world to us.”
“Whether we made history, nothing mattered more than a win for us and putting pride back in the jersey and making New Zealand so proud of us. Whether we won by one point or 30 points it doesn’t matter, a win was the main thing.”
As seen on nrl.com
The Kiwis have the home-ground advantage while the Kangaroos have the momentum heading into Saturday’s Pacific Cup Final in Hamilton.
With Val Holmes contributing 16 points and Lindsay Collins grabbing the first try double of his career, the Kangaroos proved too strong for the Kiwis in a 36-18 triumph in Melbourne last weekend.
The Kangaroos have now won all 12 Test matches played in Australia since Mal Meninga took the helm but they will face a hostile reception from the fans at Waikato’s FMG Stadium and also from a fired up Kiwi forward pack seeking redemption.
Both sides are set to be at full strength for the decider and nothing will be left in the tank in the final match of another long and testing season for the game’s superstars.
The Kiwis have proven countless times during the past 20 years that lead-up form goes out the window when the silverware is on the line and the likes of James Fisher-Harris and Joe Tapine are sure to bring the heat to the early exchanges.
Kiwis: Coach Michael Maguire sticks with the same 17-man squad that went down to the Kangaroos in Melbourne with Joey Manu remaining in the centres and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad staying at fullback. Roosters youngster Naufahu Whyte is 18th Man once again.
Kangaroos: Props Payne Haas and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui return to the side after being rested last weekend so Jake Trbojevic and Tom Flegler make way. Liam Martin is also back in the starting side so Reuben Cotter reverts to the bench and last week’s debutant Nicho Hynes goes to 18th Man.
Read the full article on nrl.com
Two weeks after going to head-to-head in Townsville the Australian Jillaroos and Kiwi Ferns will meet again to round out the inaugural Women’s Pacific Championships.
It was the Jillaroos who came out on top in Week 1 with debutant Tamika Upton showing her class on the international stage to get the green and gold home 16-10 in a thrilling battle at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
The Ferns were straight back on the training paddock last week and looked to have built on their combinations, with halfback Raecene McGregor and centres Abigail Roache and Mele Hufanga sparking a 28-10 win over Mate Ma’a Tonga on Saturday.
After losing to their arch-rivals by 50 points in last year’s World Cup Final, Ricky Henry’s side will have taken plenty of heart from the six-point loss in Townsville and will be desperate to get their first win over the Jillaroos since 2016.
Meanwhile, Brad Donald’s Jillaroos will head to Melbourne well-rested and well-prepared to face the Ferns after a weekend off.
Donald fields a similar side to the that got the job done against the Ferns a fortnight ago and the Aussies will be buoyed by the inclusion of debutant Jakiya Whitfeld, who stole the show with four tries at the Australian Prime Ministers XIII’s clash last month.
Kiwi Ferns: Co-captain Shanice Parker is set to play her third different position in as many weeks after being named on the wing, following stints at centre and fullback against the Jillaroos and Mate Ma’a Tonga respectively. Her move is triggered by the return of Raiders flyer Apii Nicholls at fullback, with Cheyelle Robins-Reti the player to make way. The forward pack is unchanged from last week’s win over Tonga, while on the bench Ash Quinlan replaces Capri Paekau and Jasmine Fogavini comes in for the injured Amelia Pasikala.
Jillaroos: Wests Tigers star Jakiya Whitfeld will make her Test debut in place of Julia Robinson (personal reasons). Lauren Brown is the new hooker with Keeley Davis going to the reserves. Cowboys hooker Emma Manzelmann makes her international debut off the bench while Yasmin Clydsdale has also been added to the interchange with Caitlan Johnston out due to injury.
Kiwis v Kangaroos – Saturday 28th October 8:00pm AAMI Park Melbourne
Available to watch on Sky Sport
The Kangaroos and Kiwis meet in a preview of the Pacific Championships final with both sides having already qualified for next week’s decider in Hamilton.
The last time the great Trans-Tasman rivals met was last year’s World Cup semi-final with the Kangaroos getting home 16-14 on the back of tries to Josh Addo-Carr, Val Holmes and Cam Murray.
Every contest between the Kangaroos and Kiwis offers the chance to make a statement and claim bragging rights so nothing will be left in the tank, particularly in the early exchanges when James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota lock horns with debutant Flegler and Cowboys hard nut Cotter.
Kiwis: An unchanged 17 from last week’s 50-0 hammering of Toa Samoa. After being a late addition to the starting side at hooker in week two, Kieran Foran will wear the No.9 jersey against Australia with Fa’amanu Brown reverting to the bench. Brown joins centre Matthew Timoko and fellow bench men Griffin Neame and Leo Thompson in making his second Test appearance for New Zealand. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Joey Manu are expected to again share time at fullback.
Kiwis v Kangaroos – Saturday 28th October 10:10pm AAMI Park Melbourne
Written by Suzanne McFadden as seen here on newsroom
Explosive Kiwi Ferns centre Shanice Parker never met her Kiwi dad until her teens. Now the Aussie-born multi-code star is embracing new whānau and giving her son what she missed out on.
Each time Shanice Parker pulls on the Kiwi Ferns jersey, it’s as if she’s adding another layer to a journey of discovery – finding out who she is.
“So, my story’s a little different,” 25-year-old Parker, one of the most exciting outside backs in rugby league, says.
“I didn’t know my dad until a bit later in my life. For a big part of my teenage years, I had a bit of an identity crisis.”
But now Parker, who’s spent all her life in Australia, is filling the gaps in her story – learning her whakapapa and connecting with her whānau in the Waikato. And becoming a true-blue Kiwi Fern.
Born in the Perth suburb of Yangebup, the daughter of former Jillaroo league star Danielle Parker, Shanice always knew she was Māori. But she knew nothing of her New Zealand dad until she was 11, and didn’t meet him for the first time till she was 16.
At first, she played footy for her country of birth – but in rugby, for both the Australian Sevens, then the Wallaroos 15s.
But as she began to connect with her Kiwi whānau (she’s Tainui, Ngāti Korokī Kahukura) and switched codes to rugby league, Parker realised she wanted to play for the Māori All Stars, and then for New Zealand. To represent this other half of her life she was unearthing.
Now she’s a mother, to 22-month-old Jakari, Parker says the journey is even more special. “It’s really ignited a drive to give my son what I never had,” she says. A new language, a new culture, a new family.
Sitting next to a pool in Townsville, where she’ll line up for the Kiwi Ferns in the Pacific Championship opener against the Jillaroos tonight, Parker is missing her little boy.
When she made her debut for the Kiwi Ferns a year ago, at the World Cup in England, she was able to take Jakari – then 10 months old – with her. Along with fullback Apii Nicholls and her one-year-old, Felix, they were part of a ground-breaking policy introduced by coach Ricky Henry – encouraging young mums to keep their babies with them on tour.
This past week, Jakari has been at home in Newcastle with Parker’s partner, former league player Kiah Cooper. But Cooper’s mum will fly to Townsville today with Jakari, so he can travel with Parker to Auckland, where the Kiwi Ferns play Tonga at Eden Park next Saturday.
There’s no shortage of “aunties” in the Kiwi Ferns offering to look after Kari. “In fact, he’s going to spend the week with my dad going to the kohanga reo where my dad works,” Parker says.
“My son is really lucky because he’s got two of the best cultures in the world – he’s Aboriginal on his dad’s side, and Māori on mine.
“That’s why I really love immersing myself in these Kiwi Ferns camps because I’m on my own journey as well. It started once my dad came into my life. So being in these camps really just feels so cup-filling.”
When she first met her dad, Robin White, and his wife, Holly, Parker was unsure whether they would begin a relationship. “It’s been kind of a weird feeling, because as soon as we connected, it was just like they’d always been there,” she says.
“It just felt so natural and everything made sense in that moment. Now I have extended whānau everywhere I go. It’s pretty cool.”
The Newcastle Knights scoring star – who’s also a youth worker, studying for a health degree – feels blessed to have a support network in two countries now. “I know it takes a village to raise a child. The girls I play with are a big part of that, but also my partner and his family back home,” she says.
“Kiah has held it down for us and been so supportive for me to come back into the elite space after having Kari. I wouldn’t be here without him, and all of them.”
Parker hopes her son will one day look back and appreciate growing up on league sidelines around the world.
“Obviously he won’t remember going on all these trips, which are a luxury my mum never had in her playing career,” says Parker, who was two when her mum played for the Jillaroos at the 2000 World Cup in England, while she stayed in Perth with her mum’s family. “Mum had to pay her own way, and it would have been expensive to take a baby and a carer with her.
“So it’s really cool how the game has evolved in that sense of supporting women if they have kids, or whatever they do career-wise. I know we’re very fortunate, and we really respect and honour the women who’ve come before us to create this pathway.”
Being a kid watching her mother play moulded the multi-talented player Parker has become.
“Mum obviously played a massive part in the player and the person that I am today. Six days a week, my siblings and I were at the footy fields – whether it was union, tag or league,” says Parker, who started playing league at five.
“There were other people in my life – like my aunty and my nana on my mum’s side – who were really important influences around my sport. My aunty [Melanie Wallis] played league for a Prime Minister’s squad, and even my Nana played. Well, not very well, but she jumped on the field with my aunty and mum.”
Mum Danielle is still playing club league in Perth: “She tries, she hobbles along,” Parker laughs.
It was her mum who encouraged her to leave home at 18 and move across the continent to take up a rugby union contract with the Australian Sevens – turning down a place in the Jillaroos training squad. Having taken up rugby at 15, she could see the professional opportunities sevens would give her.
Multi-code legend Honey Hireme-Smiler remembers seeing the young Aussie bolter playing sevens (it turns out they’re related by marriage).
“Shanice seems so chill and shy off the field, but when she’s on it, she’s a real competitor,” say Hireme-Smiler, now a Kiwi Ferns selector. “She has a massive game face, and she’s right in there. She’s such a dynamic and powerful player – she’s got speed and height, and amazing skills to play anywhere. She’s the full package.”
Parker started playing league again in 2018, and the next year made her NRLW debut with the title-winning Sydney Roosters. This year she collected her third NRLW crown, but with the defending champions Newcastle Knights, scoring an early try in their 24-18 win over the Gold Coast Titans.
“Back-to-back championship victories don’t happen that often, so we’re in a very privileged position,” she says. “It’s just so good to be surrounded by elite players like [NRLW Player of the Year] Tamika Upton, and Jesse and Hannah Southwell. And I’m fortunate enough to have that here with the Kiwi Ferns as well.”
Though some believe Parker is now playing some of her best football, she feels as though she’s just hitting her stride. “When I look back at where I’ve been, my confidence since having my son has just sprouted,” she says.
“I feel like I’m paying good footy because I’m having fun and I’m loving what I do. But there’s always little areas that I feel like I can tweak and improve on.”
But at 25, she reckons she won’t have long to make any modifications. She calls herself an “old girl” now and see her retirement only a few years away.
“When you become a mum, your priorities change. I love having my time away and keeping that little piece of yourself alive which is so important. So I’ll play maybe another three to four years and then I’ll be moving on,” she says. “Well, I say that now.”
The next World Cup in 2026 stands as a beacon in her career after last year’s disappointment, when a serious knee injury in a “weird, ugly tackle” in the second game against the Cook Islands ruled her out for the rest of the tournament.
Parker wouldn’t mind another shot at rugby – specifically with Chiefs Manawa in the Super Rugby Aupiki competition. “If I had the chance to play a season with the Chiefs, it’d be good for me to be around my Kiwi family,” she says.
“But I love league, I love the space. We’re all very supportive of each other and the sport has come from a long history of women getting nothing, to now being able to provide a bit more for our families and for ourselves.”
In the meantime, she wants to make her mark as a Kiwi Fern starter and establish herself as a leader; she’s just been named in a support role for new co-captains Georgia Hale and Raecene McGregor.
“Honestly, when Ricky asked me to be involved in the leadership group, I was a bit taken aback – but I guess I’m ready to step into that role now,” she says. “I’ve been a part of the game for a long time and I’m one of the older heads – and older bodies –in this very youthful side. So I’m really privileged to be part of the leadership squad.”
There are 11 debutants in the Kiwi Ferns line-up for this series, including Annessa Biddle, the NRLW Rookie of the Year and Players Player of the Year, who’ll combine with Parker in the centres tonight.
“I watched all of our debutants – but Annessa in particular – through the whole NRLW campaign. She came over and started off so hard, like one of the strongest outside backs in the game. Hopefully we’ll see a bit more of that on Saturday,” Parker says.
“We’ve got so much talent that’s being unearthed. I’m excited for the future of the Kiwi Ferns. It’s like the beginning of a new era.”
Away from the field, Parker has become a master of multi-tasking. On top of her league training, she works four days a week as a youth worker coordinating wellbeing programmes in schools. And she’s studying for a Bachelor of Health and Movement degree to eventually become a teacher.
“It’s all self-inflicted stress really,” she laughs. “My day usually starts by dropping off my son to daycare, going to work from seven till three, then driving an hour to get straight into training. Everything’s go go go – it’s like I don’t really have time to breathe sometimes.
“But being a parent is the hardest job of all. Sometimes I miss out on a lot of the cool things, as I get home from training like around 9pm and Kari’s in bed.”
But she hopes her son will one day understand.
“Having Kari reignited a spark and gave me more purpose – not just in footy but in life,” Parker says. “I love what I’m doing and I hope one day he can look back at this and say ‘My mum was so cool’. It’s cool to be able to be that female role model in his life.”
As seen on 1news.co.nz
Even Tyla Nathan-Wong admits she’s still coming to grips wearing the Kiwi Ferns jersey.
But it could soon become a regular occurrence, named in the New Zealand women’s squad for the upcoming Pacific Championship against Australia and Tonga.
“Obviously I’ve always been a big supporter and follower of Rugby League in general especially NRL and NRLW since it started from a far,” says Nathan-Wong.
“But never did I think I’d be pulling on the Kiwi Ferns jersey obviously you think far out how cool would that be one day if I ever could.”
“To think in my first year of ever playing league in the NRLW and be able to potentially pull on this jersey for what’s my fifth sport at an international level I’ll be pulling the black jersey on for.”
And it’s that wealth of experience that’s made her adjustment to the NRLW so easy.
While her side St George Illawarra Dragons haven’t fared as well as she would have hoped, Nathan-Wong still managed to form a strong halves partnership with fellow Kiwi Fern Raecene McGregor.
“She might be new to rugby league but as a professional athlete Tyla’s done it all really so she’ll call on a lot of experience to help her play well against the Australians and Tongans,” says Kiwi Ferns coach Ricky Henry.
The decision to switch codes, a “now or never” moment for the sevens Olympic gold medallist.
“In general playing contact sport your window is limited your body can only handle so much.
“But then being female too there’s that time where you do want to settle down and start a family and unfortunately out of the two you’re the one who becomes pregnant and has to hold the baby which is incredible in of itself.
“That’s why I knew, I just felt I was at a point in my career where I achieved everything I wanted to,” says Nathan-Wong.
Whānau was ultimately the determining factor for the 29-year-old especially considering her grandfather, David Wong, was the first Chinese-New Zealander to play for Auckland’s provincial rugby league team.
“He’s that proud person who will tell the supermarket check out person that I’m his granddaughter and to watch me on TV.”
No doubt grandad or gung gung as he’s affectionately called in the family, will be watching next weekend when the Kiwi Ferns kick the Pacific Champions off against the Jillaroos in Townsville.
Auckland, New Zealand, October 9, 2023
Eight NRL rookies and two teenagers yet to play a first-grade match feature in the New Zealand Kiwis A squad to face Tonga A in the Labour Weekend triple-header at Eden Park on Saturday, October 21.
With their eye firmly focused on the future, the national selectors have also included a mix of more established NRL players in a group of 15 players named today.
They will go into camp with the 21-man New Zealand Kiwis squad announced last week for the Pacific Championships encounter with beaten 2022 Rugby League World Cup finalists Toa Samoa.
Three of the 21 players in the Kiwi squad will be added to the New Zealand A line-up next week.
The eight NRL rookies named are Storm second rower Joe Chan (21), Warriors back rower Kalani Going (26), Storm back rower Jack Howarth (20), Warriors centre Ali Leiataua (20), Raiders middle forward Trey Mooney (21), Warriors hooker Paul Roache (24), Warriors fullback Taine Tuaupiki (24) and Storm winger William Warbrick (25).
Yet to play in the NRL are Warriors second rower Jacob Laban (19) and Broncos front rower Benjamin Te Kura (18). Both filled the 18th man role for their NRL sides in the final round of the 2023 regular season but didn’t make it onto the field.
The squad’s most experienced player is Eels centre Bailey Simonsson (25), who played the first of his 85 NRL matches for Canberra in 2019, the year he represented the Kiwis at the World Nines in Sydney.
Prop Pasami Saulo (25) has made 49 appearances for the Knights and the Raiders while centre Asu Kepaoa (23) has played 40 times for Wests Tigers and fellow centre Rocco Berry (22) has 31 appearances for the Warriors.
Also included is Roosters and Māori All Stars utility Zach Dockar-Clay (28), who played 14 times in his NRL debut season for the Bulldogs in 2022.
“It’s really exciting for New Zealand Rugby League being able to bring so many players together at the same time,” said New Zealand Kiwis head coach Michael Maguire.
“The players brought into the New Zealand A squad will all have the opportunity to be in camp with the Kiwis, to train alongside them and to show their potential as future Kiwi internationals.
“It’s really important for us to have an opportunity like this, not just for players striving to become Kiwis but also for coaches.”
Coached by former Kiwi captain Nathan Cayless, the New Zealand Kiwis A team faces Tonga A in the first game of the Labour Weekend triple-header (1.30pm kick-off) at Eden Park followed by the Kiwis Ferns taking on Tonga Women’s (3.45pm kick-off) and the New Zealand Kiwis against in their Pacific Championships encounter (6.00pm).
New Zealand Kiwis A Squad v Tonga A
One NZ Warriors
BENJAMIN TE KURA
Auckland, New Zealand, October 4, 2023
Seven players are in line to make their New Zealand debuts after being named in the Kiwis’ 21-man squad for the inaugural Pacific Championships.
The potential debutants are led by North Queensland prop Griffin Neame, a non-playing member of the New Zealand squad for last year’s mid-season Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga.
Also named is Christchurch-born Newcastle utility Fa’amanu Brown, who comes into the New Zealand squad for the first time after representing Toa Samoa at last year’s Rugby League World Cup.
Joining Neame and Brown are Parramatta and Māori All Stars front rower Wiremu Greig, 19-year-old Gold Coast NRL rookie fullback Keano Kini, Newcastle and Māori All Stars prop Leo Thompson, Canberra centre Matthew Timoko and Sydney Roosters middle forward Naufahu Whyte.
Two former Kiwis who have also played for Samoa have been recalled.
Dolphins winger Jamayne Isaako finished the 2023 NRL season as both the leading try scorer and the top points scorer. He last represented the Kiwis against Great Britain in 2019 as well as representing Samoa earlier that season.
And experienced Canberra and Māori All Stars hooker Danny Levi returns after last playing for New Zealand at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup. He has represented Toa Samoa since 2019 including at the World Cup last year.
The remaining 12 players named were all in the Kiwis’ line-up for their World Cup semi-final against the Kangaroos when they were denied 16-14 in an epic battle at Elland Road in Leeds.
Returning from the backline that night are 2022 Golden Boot winner Joseph Manu, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Dylan Brown and Jahrome Hughes.
Penrith’s premiership-winning props James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota are back along with Isaiah Papali’i, Briton Nikora, Joseph Tapine, Kieran Foran and Nelson Asofa Solomona.
“It’s always a real thrill being able to bring new players into the Kiwi camp,” said New Zealand Kiwis head coach Michael Maguire.
“It’s a special place and these men have earned the opportunity. They’ll benefit so much from being around players who have done the jersey proud.
“This series is exciting for the game in New Zealand and also a chance for us to start our journey to the next World Cup in 2025.”
The Kiwis begin their campaign against Toa Samoa in a Labour Weekend triple header at Eden Park on Saturday, October 21 before facing the Kangaroos in Melbourne a week later.
The series final will be played in Hamilton on November 4.
2023 Kiwis Pacific Championship Squad:
* denotes potential debut
Kiwi Ferns head coach Ricky Henry has confirmed his squad for the 2023 Pacific Championship, which features 11 potential Kiwi Ferns debutantes.
Following their World Cup final loss to the Jillaroos last year, Henry calls on a fresh crop of NRLW talent set to stamp their mark on the international scene after impressive 2023 seasons.
Among the new debutantes is NRLW rookie of the year medallist Annessa Biddle, who took the NRLW by storm, earning two tries, 1366 running metres and 33 tackle breaks. After being voted the Rugby League Players’ Association NRLW Rookie of the Year, Biddle looks to continue her flying form in Black and White colours.
Joining Biddle in the squad is Sharks teammate and hooker Brooke Anderson. Anderson is no stranger to representative rugby league, having represented the Māori All-Stars and NSW Sky Blues in 2023.
Olympic gold medallist and dual code star Tyla Nathan-Wong gets her first Kiwi Ferns selection after an impressive debut NRLW season alongside halves partner and Golden Boot winner Raecene McGregor. Dragon’s teammate Angelina Teakaraanga-Katoa also gets her maiden call-up.
Wests Tigers duo Leianne Tufuga and Najvada George join the squad after they combined for 2163 running metres this season, with Tufuga scoring five tries in nine appearances.
Newcomers Jasmine Fogavini of the Brisbane Broncos and Amelia Pasikala of the Sydney Roosters help strengthen an already dominant forward pack. While Auckland and Taupō natives, Cheyelle Robins-Reti and Ashleigh Quinlan are named after stand-out seasons for the Canberra Raiders.
Dally M Centre of the Year Mele Hufanga returns to the Kiwi Ferns after a break-out NRLW season with the Broncos. Veterans Georgia Hale, Apii Nicholls and Mya Hill-Moana also return, while 2023 NRLW champions Shanice Parker, Laishon Albert-Jones and Abigail Roache look to carry on their winning momentum.
“We’ve listed an impressive group of players who have rightfully earned their spots, and we acknowledge them for their form in the NRLW competition,” Henry said.
“The depth we have and the new generation of players coming through is exciting. I’m confident our newcomers will flourish alongside our World Cup campaigners and veteran leaders who set an excellent foundation for us last year.
“The Jillaroos are world-class, and Tonga is no easy feat, but I’m confident in this playing group. I know everyone can’t wait to get out there.”
2023 Kiwi Ferns Pacific Championship Squad:
As seen on stoppress.co.nz
Following the launch a new Go Media site on the corner of Church and Neilson St in Penrose, Auckland, in time for the sold-out Warriors’ last home game in the finals series, New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) has named Go Media as its official Outdoor Media Partner.
Greg Peters, CEO of NZRL, says the organisation has been working with Go Media for several years but this move solidifies this long term relationship “where they can help to amplify our sport in general and future test series, starting with the triple header on October 21st at Eden Park”.
“It was great to see a record 28,000 crowd at the weekend walk up passed our advertising.”
Dae Chun, Go Media’s Auckland Sales Manager, says the Warriors performance this season means that “Rugby League is red hot right now, so it’s great to get behind NZRL to help build on that momentum for the Pacific Championship”.
“We created Up the Wahs packs for last weekend, which targeted all the sites we have going to and from the stadium, which sold out, and we will continue to create packs around every event at Go Media Stadium with our new site front and centre.”
Read the full article on stoppress.co.nz
As seen on nzherald
FMG Stadium Waikato will host the Pacific Cup grand final on Saturday, November 4, as part of the newly announced Pacific Championships in partnership with New Zealand Rugby League.
The 2023 Pacific Championships is a two-tiered competition with six men’s teams and seven women’s teams taking part in the tournament across two pools.
“I firmly believe the Pacific Cup will be the biggest international rugby league event on home soil since the 2017 World Cup,” said NZRL chief executive Greg Peters.
Hamilton City Council’s General Manager of Venues, Tourism and Major Events, Sean Murray, said: “We’re working hard to deliver an exceptional Pacific Championship final at FMG Stadium Waikato. The team looks forward to passionate fans and the exposure this game will bring to our city and region.”
“How special to bring the best players in the world back home to play in front of their communities,” Peters said.
“We’re excited to work with these Pacific teams to bring our rugby league heroes back home and unite fans across New Zealand and the Pacific.
“No other code can produce such a celebration of culture and passion; the atmosphere will be unmissable.”
Full schedule below:
Week One – October 14-15
Week Two – October 21-22
Week Three – October 28-29
Week Four – November 4-5
Tickets for the Pacific Championships grand final are on sale to the public now from Ticketek.
Kiwi Ferns star Raecene McGregor believes the end-of-season Pacific Championships may help convince her Dragons halves partner Tyla Nathan-Wong and other rugby union converts to stick with league.
Nathan-Wong, who was a member of New Zealand’s gold medal winning rugby sevens team at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, is among a host of NRLW newcomers set to bolster the depth of the Kiwi Ferns.
Niall Williams-Guthrie and Cheyelle Robins-Reti are other cross code stars to have made an immediate impact this season, as the number of players eligible for the Kiwi Ferns in the NRLW has risen to 58.
“It is very exciting to see the new players who are coming through,” McGregor said.
“I have been in the Kiwi Ferns for a number of years now and when I first started there was probably one person for each position so to see that we have got some depth now is awesome.”
McGregor was regarded as the best player in the world last year after winning the 2022 Dally M Medal and IRL Golden Boot, but the Kiwi Ferns were outgunned 54-4 by the Jillaroos in November’s World Cup final at Old Trafford.
However, McGregor believes that the likes of Nathan-Wong, Williams-Guthrie, Robins-Reti and Broncos star Gayle Broughton to choose from the Kiwis Ferns will be much stronger for their two Tests against Australia and one against Tonga.
Nathan-Wong is only on a one-year NRLW deal with the Dragons, but McGregor is hopeful she will stay beyond this season and resist approaches to return to rugby sevens.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure what Tyla is going to decide at the moment,” McGregor said. “I think she has got a few things that she does want to do in sevens possibly, but hopefully she does decide to play in these Test matches at the end of the year.
“If she enjoys that she will hopefully give away the sevens and commit to league.”
The Dragons have eight players eligible for the Kiwi Ferns, including prop Madison Weatherall and teenage forward Alexis Tauaneai, who was selected in the NSW U19s State of Origin team but has pledged her allegiances to New Zealand.
“She is 100% Kiwi and I have been in her ear so NSW can wish but she’s not going there. She will definitely be playing for the Kiwi Ferns,” McGregor said.
“With this NRLW season being longer it has been really exciting to see some of the young girls playing and hopefully we can get a good side together for the Tests at the end of the season.”
The women’s section of the Pacific Championships will feature seven nations, with Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Cook Islands and Samoa to play Tests in Port Morseby.
Jillaroos coach Brad Donald predicted that the expansion of the NRLW competition to 10 teams this season would ensure the Pacific nations become stronger.
“We’ve got so many players playing in the NRLW that have got Pacific heritage and if we can open up the eligibility so some of those players can help their Pacific nations, we’re going to see more and more growth and a higher standard,” Donald said.
“Pair that with what [NRL CEO] Andrew [Abdo] has said about helping pathways in countries like Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and PNG, and we’re going to see a lot more players come through the NRLW, especially as we expand and provide great opportunities for all the females in those countries.”
“It’s a great result for NRLW, it’s a great result for the NRL and it’s an even greater result for international rugby league for women.”
Read more on nrl.com/news/2023