The front-row cornerstone of three NRL premiership triumphs for Sydney Roosters, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has joined a select group of Kiwis whose tenures in the black-and-white jersey span more than a decade.
Rotorua-born Waerea-Hargreaves was a highly promising rugby union forward as a junior in Brisbane and Sydney, representing Australia at the 2007 under-19s world championships. But despite no experience in the 13-a-side code, Manly took a punt on the tyro.
Cutting his teeth in the NYC with 36 outings for the Sea Eagles under-20s in 2008-09, Waerea-Hargreaves made six NRL appearances for the club in the latter season. He capped one of the more extraordinary meteoric rises of the modern era when he was selected in New Zealand’s Four Nations squad at the end of 2009.
The 20-year-old debuted in a warm-up Test against Tonga – fittingly, in Rotorua – before coming off the bench in all three of the Kiwis’ Four Nations fixtures in England and France. He scored two tries in the 62-12 thrashing of France, his only Test points to date.
Waerea-Hargreaves linked with Sydney Roosters upon his return. Injury prevented him from taking the field for his new club until Round 6 of the 2010 season, but he nevertheless retained his spot for the Kiwis’ 12-8 loss to the Kangaroos in Melbourne three weeks later.
After featuring in the Roosters’ charge to the 2010 grand final (a loss to St George Illawarra), Waerea-Hargreaves played in New Zealand’s 76-12 win over Papua New Guinea in Rotorua but he was left out of the side that upset Australia in the final.
The aggressive prop established himself as one of the NRL’s foremost enforcers in ensuing seasons, coming off the bench in all four matches of the Kiwis’ 2011 post-season schedule and the 2012 Anzac Test. He turned out for the NRL All Stars and won the Roosters’ Player of the Year award in the latter year.
After making his maiden Test starting line-up appearance mid-season against Australia, Waerea-Hargreaves starred in the Roosters’ drive to the 2013 premiership and featured in five of the Kiwis’ six World Cup matches. A stellar season at club and representative level saw him named as one of the Top 5 Players of the Year in David Middleton’s Official Rugby League Annual, an achievement he went on to repeat in 2015.
But Waerea-Hargreaves was one of several incumbents left out of the Kiwis’ Anzac Test line-up early in 2014, heralding an absence from the national side of almost three years. Injury ruled him out of contention for a recall for the 2015 tour of England.
He belatedly returned to the international arena under new coach David Kidwell in late-2016 with appearances against Australia in Perth and a Four Nations win over England in Huddersfield. Waerea-Hargreaves played in all four of the Kiwis’ 2017 RLWC matches, kick-starting a run of 13 straight Test outings to the end of 2019.
By now an elder statesman at the club, Waerea-Hargreaves played an integral role as the Roosters became the first back-to-back premiers in a full competition in 26 years by winning the 2018-19 NRL grand finals. The 30-year-old averaged a career-high 141 metres per game in 2019, while also bringing up 200 first-grade appearances for the Tricolours. With a monster contribution of 185 metres and 41 tackles, he was unlucky to not win the Clive Churchill Medal following the gripping grand final win over Canberra.
The veteran was named the 2018 Kiwis Player of the Year at the NZRL Awards after starring in all five Tests that year, while he was also one of New Zealand’s best in 2019, averaging 136.4 metres and 34 tackles across four Tests against Tonga, Australia and Great Britain.
Waerea-Hargreaves maintained his usual high standards for the injury-hit Roosters in 2020, playing 18 games and chalking up 135 metres per game as the club’s NRL reign ended in week two of the finals.
The Roosters’ casualty ward was filled to the brim in 2021, but JWH was a tower of strength. The 32-year-old played 23 games – including three as captain – as he passed the 250-game milestone in the NRL, and was sixth among the competition’s forwards for running metres (averaging a career-high 148 per game) and eighth for post-contact metres.
The stalwart of 20 Tests – placing him inside the top 20 for most appearances for the Kiwis – was named in the Kiwis’ wider squad for the World Cup at the end of 2021.