21 September 2022
as seen on stuff.co.nz
Five Kiwis have been named in the NRL Finals Team of the Week as the preliminary finals loom.
Sharks wing Ronaldo Mulitalo, Eels standoff Dylan Brown, Eels backrower Isaiah Papali’i, Warriors-bound Eels utility Marata Niukore and Raiders player of the year Joseph Tapine were selected by NRL.com after standout performances in week two of the playoffs.
The Eels trio are among 10 members of the Kiwis’ 34-man extended World Cup squad remaining in contention for a NRL title as the competition gets down to the last-four this weekend.
They will be joined by their Eels clubmate Bailey Simonsson (a former All Blacks sevens rugby union international), the Panthers’ James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota and Scott Sorensen, Cowboys duo Peta Hiku and Griffin Neame and Rabbitohs interchange player Kodi Nikorima, the Dolphins-bound half or hooker who left the Warriors for South Sydney in mid-season.
Mulitalo was selected on the wing in the Team of the Week despite the Sharks’ 38-12 exit to the Rabbitohs last week.
A NRL.com report noted he set up Cronulla’s first try to fellow Kiwi Briton Nikora “before blitzing everyone on a runaway four-pointer of his own’’.
Brown, 22, was one of the most impactful players of the round, joining his Eels halves partner Mitchell Moses in the Team of the Week after a crushing 40-4 win over the Raiders.
The NRL.com citation said Brown “carried the ball 29 times and had a colossal 321 run metres to show for it”.
Papali’i – set to join Wests Tigers next season after two successful years with Parramatta – “ran for 232 metres, more than any other forward in Finals Week 2, and was a menace down his side of the field’’, as well as “a pillar of strength in defence’’, with 29 tackles.
Niukore – often an Eels forward – moved to the centres in the second half and scored two tries in the last 10 minutes.
Despite the Raiders’ tanking against Parramatta, NRL.com said Canberra prop Tapine could “hold his head high” after 38 tackles and 134 run metres.
The Eels supplied nine players to the 17-man Team of the Week.
The Cowboys host the Eels in their preliminary final in Townsville on Friday night while the defending champion Panthers will be at home to the Rabbitohs on Saturday in a repeat of last year’s NRL grand final.
Both games will start at 9.50pm (NZ time)
NRL.com’s Team of Finals Week 2
Fullback: Latrell Mitchell (Rabbitohs).
Wings: Ronaldo Mulitalo (Sharks), Taane Milne (Rabbitohs).
Centres: Campbell Graham (Rabbitohs), Will Penisini (Eels).
Five-eighth: Dylan Brown (Eels).
Halfback: Mitchell Moses (Eels).
Props: Junior Paulo (Eels), Tevita Tatola (Sharks).
Hooker: Reed Mahoney (Eels).
Backrow: Shaun Lane (Eels), Isaiah Papali’i (Eels).
Lock: Cameron Murray (Rabbitohs).
Interchange: Damien Cook (Rabbitohs), Marata Niukore (Eels), Joseph Tapine (Raiders), Reagan Campbell-Gillard (Eels).