Papatoetoe product Ken Maumalo’s staggering improvement on the wing for the Warriors saw him become a New Zealand Test line-up staple in 2018-19.
Maumalo played 28 NYC games for the Warriors in 2013-14, including as an interchange in the club’s nail-biting grand final win over Brisbane in the latter season.
The young giant earned his NRL spurs as a 20-year-old in 2015 and made 18 top-grade appearances on the wing to the end of 2016. Maumalo scored two tries on Test debut for Toa Samoa in a late-2016 loss to Fiji.
Warriors and Kiwis legend Manu Vatuvei’s injury woes opened up an opportunity on the left flank in 2017, with Maumalo featuring in all but one NRL game and crossing for seven tries. He also represented Samoa in a midyear Test against England and two matches at the World Cup, scoring a four-pointer in a 38-8 defeat to New Zealand at Mt Smart.
Maumalo was widely recognised as one of the NRL’s most improved players in 2018 and was a key figure in the Warriors’ long-awaited return to the playoffs. His powerful, tireless metre-eating efforts were reminiscent of Vatuvei at his best, while he largely eradicated the handling errors that had characterised his previous campaigns and made huge strides defensively.
The Kiwis called Maumalo up for a debut against England in Denver mid-season, before he scored four tries in as many Tests at the end of the year in the upset of the Kangaroos in Auckland and the 2-1 series loss in England. Despite not having bagged a double in 64 first-grade games, he dotted down twice in the 34-0 dead-rubber rout of England at Elland Road. Maumalo was named Kiwis Rookie of the Year at the 2018 NZRL Awards.
‘Big Ken’ discovered his tryscoring touch at NRL level in 2019, another season of immense progress for the hulking flank-man. Maumalo more than doubled his career tally by scoring 17 tries in 23 games (including five doubles). The powerhouse also led the competition in post-contact metres and was behind only teammate Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the all run metres category.
The Dally M Winger of the Year enjoyed another strong year on the international stage, starring at the World Cup Nines – including a four-try haul against USA – and playing all four Tests for New Zealand against Tonga, Australia and Great Britain.
The 25-year-old averaged 181 metres across the four matches, while he produced a brilliant airborne finish for his fifth Kiwis try in the series-sealing defeat of England in Christchurch – Maumalo’s ninth consecutive Test appearance.