While the NRL playoffs have no room for NZ Warriors this season, plenty of Kiwis remain in contention for the championship title on October 25.
More than 30 players of NZ heritage are scattered throughout the eight teams still standing.
Here are some to watch out for over the next four weeks:
The Northland-born prop has notched up 100 appearances for the Panthers and become a key contributor to a pack that has dominated the 2020 competition.
He finished among league leaders in post-contact metres (1347) and decoy runs (150), while finishing fourth in run metres (3659) and second in runs (394), just behind Warriors skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Fisher-Harris was the only forward in the top eight for that last category – the rest were fullbacks and wings.
With only half a dozen international caps to his name, the 24-year-old looms as a must-have selection for Michael Maguire’s Kiwis World Cup roster next year.
Another hailing from the Far North, Harawira-Naera was headed for the NRL wilderness, after he and then-Bulldogs teammate Jayden Okunbor lured schoolgirls to their Port Macquarie hotel room during the pre-season.
He found a new lease of life when he left the club mid-season and headed for the Aussie capital, hooking up with the Raiders.
The 25-year-old second rower has proved a valuable asset off the bench for last year’s beaten finalists and a ready-made successor to English star John Bateman, who has already signalled he’s not coming back next season.
The rise of Wellington-native Hughes has gone under the radar this year, due to all the drama in the NRL, but the 24-year-old has established himself as a premier halfback in the competition.
After playing most of his career at fullback, Hughes switched to halfback to cater for the emerging Ryan Papenhuyzen late last year and hasn’t looked back.
A recent NRL.com fan survey had Hughes as the equal second-best halfback this year, behind Nathn Cleary, while he beat the Panthers playmaker in the most improved category.
In just 16 games, he finished with 13 try assists, which was more than any Warriors player.
Hughes played three tests last year, although all his appearances were off the bench as a utility.
If the Eels are to make a run in the playoffs, young Northlander Brown will be at the forefront of their attack.
Brown seemed unlikely to play any further role in Parramatta’s 2020 campaign, when he suffered a syndesmosis injury against South Sydney in September, but he’s recovered in time for the post-season.
The 19-year-old has stepped out of his shell this year and become the perfect sidekick for Mitchell Moses in the halves.
Brown hasn’t represented NZ at international level, but with some top halves ending their careers, Maguire will pay close attention to the man who could lead the Kiwis for the next 15 years.
The North Shore-born wing has made the most of his opportunity, with injuries to the South Sydney Rabbitohs’ outside backs paving the way for Paulo’s NRL debut this season.
He has played 10 games to date and scored two tries, although one of them was controversial, as his foot touched the sideline before grounding the ball.
On the field, he’s averaged more than 100 metres and 1.5 tackle breaks per game.
Original Source – Newshub by Grant Chapman and Ben Francis