6 September 2022
as seen on stuff.co.nz
As the finals loom around the corner, plenty of Kiwi talent headline the knockout rounds in their respective teams.
The Melbourne Storm boast five Kiwis test regulars, brothers Jesse and Kenneath Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jahrome Hughes and Brandon Smith for their sudden-death clash with the Raiders on Saturday.
Parramatta will field four New Zealanders against the champion Panthers.
Ricky Stuart’s Canberra Raiders also have five Kiwis
The Roosters are likely to lose boom Kiwis back Joseph Manu to a calf injury for their elimination game against the Rabbitohs, but the club is confident teak-tough prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves will shrug off a hamstring problem.
With 24 potential Kiwis spread across the finals squads, national coach Michael Maguire could be forgiven for watching behind splayed fingers this week as he seeks to firm up his squad for the Rugby League World Cup in England in October and November.
NEW ZEALANDERS IN THE NRL PLAYOFFS
(List includes those potentially under New Zealand consideration for the 2022 Rugby League World Cup)
PANTHERS v EELS
Friday September 9
First Qualifying Final at BlueBet Stadium, Penrith, 9.50pm (NZT)
PENRITH (seeded first)
James Fisher-Harris: The hardman from the Hokianga made his 150th NRL appearance this season and is still 26. The 2021 Team of the Year selection’s go-forward is critical for the champions through the middle.
Moses Leota: The 27-year-old prop made his Kiwis bow in June, but has also represented Samoa. Highly valued by Ivan Cleary, he was rested last week to keep him fresh for the finals.
Scott Sorensen: His uncles Dane and Kurt were star Kiwis forwards in the 70s and 80s and, at 29, he’s been a handy utility forward in 20 games this term.
Dylan Brown: Red-hot favourite for the Kiwis’ standoff berth at the Rugby League World Cup. Has 11 tries in 24 games and forged a fine halves pairing with Mitchell Moses.
Isaiah Papali’i: A revelation at Parramatta since leaving the Warriors and a second rower of the year in 2021. Ten tries in 24 games in 2022 ahead of a planned move to Wests Tigers.
Bailey Simonsson: The former All Black sevens rep has chalked up three tries in 18 games at the Eels but hasn’t played since round 19.
Marata Niukore: The Warriors-bound second rower who made his Kiwis debut in June, has played 14 games and been a regular since July.
Saturday September 10
STORM V RAIDERS
First Elimination Final at AAMI Park, Melbourne, 7.40pm.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona: The six-test 2m tall middle forward from Wellington has built a reputation as a NRL enforcer – just ask Kiwi teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
Jesse Bromwich: The Storm co-captain is closing in on 300 games for Melbourne ahead of a Queensland move to the Dolphins. 2016 NRL prop of the year.
Kenneath Bromwich: Much-respected left edge forward will also be keen to go out a winner at the Storm before he also heads to play for Wayne Bennett.
Jahrome Hughes: Likely to be the Kiwis’ World Cup playmaker. Twelve tries in 20 games this year but has had a recent shoulder injury.
Brandon Smith: The Kiwis’ best hooker since Issac Luke. Injuries and suspension for referee abuse aside, the Waiheke Islander has still managed 19 valuable appearances at hooker or off the interchange bench.
Corey Harawira-Naera: A versatile forward who has thrived under Ricky Stuart. Played six of the last seven games off the bench, but had a full 80 minutes in the second row last week.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad: Last Canberra chance for Charnze? Equally adept at centre or fullback, he’s heading home to the Warriors in 2023.
Jordan Rapana: The 11-test veteran winger is still scoring NRL tries at 33, and is a part-time goalkicker too. Dally M winger of the year in 2018.
Joseph Tapine: The Māori All Stars skipper is one of the first names on the Kiwis team sheet and was hailed by Raiders teammate Tom Starling as the best forward in the NRL.
Matthew Timoko: The former Auckland Grammar School 1st XV star impressed with his powerful running and cemented his spot as a starting centre, after making his NRL debut in 2020.
SHARKS V COWBOYS
Second Qualifying Final at PointsBet Stadium, Cronulla, 9.50pm.
Braden Hamlin-Uele: A big finals series could put the Cronulla frontrower in contention for the Kiwis after a sole test in 2019.
Ronaldo Mulitalo: Electric wing who made his Kiwis debut against Tonga is sixth on the 2022 top try scorers charts with 15 in 22 games.
Briton Nikora: Earned a test recall in 2022 and is now a first-choice in the Sharks’ second row under ex-Kangaroos forward Craig Fitzgibbon.
Peta Hiku: Yet another who has blossomed after leaving the Warriors. Has added experience and guile to the Cowboys centres with Valentine Holmes and seems set for the World Cup.
Griffin Neame: The West Coast’s first NRL regular since current Warriors coaching assistant Slade Griffin has impressed in Todd Payten’s pack and earned a new two-year deal.
Sunday September 11
ROOSTERS V RABBITOHS
Second Elimination Final, at Allianz Stadium, Sydney, 4.05pm
Joseph Manu: Starred for the Kiwis at fullback against Tonga and one of the best backs in the NRL, but unlikely to play again this season after a calf injury last weekend.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves: A three-time NRL champion who remains one of game’s most combative props. Fighting to be over a hamstring injury in time to battle Souths.
Kodi Nikorima: One of only two 2022 Warriors to make the playoffs (Roosters prop Matt Lodge is the other). His mid-season move has led to an interchange berth at Souths. Headed for the Dolphins.