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).
23 June 2021
New Zealand Rugby League and NRL action will be live on Sky for many years to come. Today Sky confirmed an exciting partnership with NZRL and it’s so much more than a broadcast deal.
Sky will continue to bring sports fans every fantastic match of the NRL and State of Origin, and all the NZRL-run matches involving the Kiwis and the Kiwi Ferns. But it’s more than this.
Through this partnership, Sky have committed to working even more closely with the NRL and NZRL to grow the game of Rugby League in New Zealand.
Sky will promote and support wāhine toa, and do everything to engage with and develop the next generation of League fans and players from grassroots to high performance. Together there is a keen focus on the future of the game.
This digital partnership means together all entities can deliver great fan moments and experiences to all New Zealanders in ways that work for them.
Sky have also committed to making some important matches available free-to-access, to ensure as many Kiwis as possible can enjoy the wonderful game of Rugby League.
Andrew Abdo, NRL Chief Executive says: “This is an exciting deal for rugby league fans in New Zealand and highlights Sky’s ongoing commitment to growing our game. It ensures every Premiership and NRLW game will continue to be broadcast live, along with the Finals Series and State of Origin.
“Sky’s increased commitment for the duration of this deal will assist in expanding our reach in New Zealand including coverage of our emerging development competitions. There’s around 1 million Kiwis who follow rugby league and partnerships like this play a vital role in growing our fan base and ensuring even more coverage of the one of the world’s most entertaining and exciting competitions. We have some of the best athletes in the world and a growing number of those players are from New Zealand.
“This deal also highlights the importance of the New Zealand Warriors. Despite the Warriors not having played in Auckland for over a year, Sky were committed to not only extending their deal, but significantly broadening it.”
Greg Peters, NZRL CEO says: “Sky has been a long-term supporter of Rugby League for over 25 years now, and the nature of this renewed partnership enhances and deepens this to a new level.
“Against the backdrop of our current sponsorship agreement, coupled with added value over the next seven years, this enables us to support the game in ways we haven’t seen before, from grassroots to high performance.
“This kind of partnership signifies a new era and is a real milestone for Rugby League. Thank you to Sky Sport for sharing our vision and supporting us in such a significant capacity.”
More than 1.1 million New Zealand fans have tuned into the NRL this year alone. In 2020, League lovers and occasional sport fans alike enjoyed 276 matches, across NRL, the Kiwis and Kiwi Ferns, State of Origin, the NSW and QLD Cups and the National Premiership Men’s and Women’s.
Sky, NZRL and the NRL will continue to support the game in New Zealand – together we can do great things.
 Source Nielsen TAM, 2021 Year To Date 22/06/21, AP5+ including Prime
Eight debutants have now been included in the 16-man New Zealand Kiwis squad for the World Cup Nines at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney on October 18 and 19.
When the line-up was originally named yesterday head coach Michael Maguire confirmed NRL rookies in Parramatta standoff Dylan Brown (19) and Canberra winger Bailey Simonsson (21) as well as second rower Corey Harawira-Naera (Canterbury Bankstown-Bulldogs), front rower Braden Hamlin-Uele (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), hooker Jeremy Marshall-King (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs) and winger Reimis Smith (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs).
In the past 24 hours Maguire has been forced to make two more changes after losing forward James Fisher-Harris and winger Jordan Rapana resulting in the inclusion today of two more players yet to play for the Kiwis – Sydney Roosters middle forward Zane Tetevano and Canberra Raiders fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.
Simonsson, Marshall-King and Smith all have strong family connections in rugby league.
Simonsson’s father Paul was a 1987 All Black before switching from rugby union to rugby league when he played with the North Sydney Bears in the then Winfield Cup in 1991-92.
Marshall-King (23) makes the New Zealand team in the same year his older brother and rugby league legend Benji made his emotional Test comeback for the Kiwis against Mate Ma’a Tonga seven years after his last international.
And Smith (22) is the son of 1996-2000 Kiwi Tyran Smith, who played for seven clubs in his 188-game NRL career from 1993-2005.
Harawira-Naera (24) was originally named in the Kiwi squad for the end of season campaign against the Kangaroos and England last year before being ruled out with injury. Tetevano was also ruled out with injury after being selected for that campaign and wasn’t in the final 17 when he was with the Kiwis for their Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga in June.
While bringing in eight newcomers, Maguire has a squad built around Test players in halves Shaun Johnson and Kodi Nikorima, second rowers Kevin Proctor, Briton Nikora and Joseph Tapine, wingers Ken Maumalo and Jamayne Isaako and prop Leeson Ah Mau.
“This is a hugely exciting opportunity for the whole group playing in the World Cup Nines,” said Maguire.
“I’m especially excited for the new players we’ve been able to bring into the group.
“We’ve got players right across this squad who have come off terrific NRL seasons and have earned the privilege to represent New Zealand. For us, this is another step towards taking the Kiwi jersey to the place we want it to be.”
The New Zealand World Cup Nines squad assembles in Sydney next Monday.
Following the Nines, the Kiwis switch mode to Test football with their Oceania Cup clash against the Kangaroos in Wollongong on Friday, October 25 before flying to New Zealand for two Tests against the reformed GB Rugby League Lions (Great Britain).
The first of these will be the second match of an international tripleheader at Auckland’s Eden Park on Saturday, November 2, which also features the Kangaroos facing Tonga Invitational and Toa Samoa taking on Fiji Bati in Oceania Cup matches.
The Kiwis then move to Christchurch for the second Test at Orangetheory Stadium (formerly AMI Stadium) on Saturday, November 9.
The New Zealand Test squad will be announced tomorrow.
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS | WORLD CUP NINES
LEESON AH MAU (Vodafone Warriors)
*DYLAN BROWN (Parramatta Eels)
*COREY HARAWIRA-NAERA (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
*BRADEN HAMLIN-UELE (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)
JAMAYNE ISAAKO (Brisbane Broncos)
SHAUN JOHNSON (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)
*JEREMY MARSHALL-KING (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
KEN MAUMALO (Vodafone Warriors)
*CHARNZE NICOLL-KLOKSTAD (Canberra Raiders)
BRITON NIKORA (Cronulla Sutherland Sharks)
KODI NIKORIMA (Vodafone Warriors)
KEVIN PROCTOR (Gold Coast Titans)
*BAILEY SIMONSSON (Canberra Raiders)
*REIMIS SMITH (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
JOSEPH TAPINE (Canberra Raiders)
*ZANE TETEVANO (Sydney Roosters)
Debutants denoted by *
New Zealand rugby league has lost a legend.
It’s with great sorrow that we announce Kiwi #634 and Warrior #52, Quentin Pongia, lost his battle with bowel cancer on Saturday, May 18th, 2019.
Originally from the West Coast, Pongia moved to Canterbury at 18 in 1988. He crossed the Tasman in 1993 to play for Canberra, winning a premiership with them the following year. He remained with the club through to the end of 1997 before joining the Warriors in 1998, followed by the Roosters, Dragons and Wigan.
The relentless prop played 137 NRL games in his 13-year career, in which he gained a reputation as one of the game’s most feared players. On top of this, he also leaves behind a legacy carved by his black and white jersey.
Quentin represented the Kiwis 35 times between 1992 and 2000. He played a monumental role in New Zealand’s back-to-back victories over the Kangaroos at North Harbour Stadium in the 1990s, he then went on to captain the 1998 touring team that remains the only Kiwis side unbeaten from a three-test series in England, also earning himself New Zealand Rugby League player of the year.
In 2004, Quentin hung up his boots while signed with Wigan when it was discovered that he suffered from the contagious blood disorder hepatitis B. However, his involvement in rugby league didn’t end there. Pongia remained in the game when his playing days finished, having time on Canberra’s football staff and more recently he worked in the wellbeing area for the NRL, the Rugby League Players’ Association and lastly the Manly Sea Eagles.
He was also on the Kiwis’ staff for the 2009 end of season Four Nations campaign in the United Kingdom and France.
In an interview with stuff.co.nz last year, Quentin said “I’m a passionate Kiwi. That will never change … I’ve been away for 25 years in Australia, but I’m still black and white…It’s something that’s pretty close to my heart.”
A gentleman on and off the field, a legend of the game and a true friend to many. New Zealand Rugby League passes on their condolences to Quentin’s friends and family.
“Like a number of players who played with him, I have nothing but respect and a wonderful friendship with Quentin and although it saddens me to hear of the news, it comforts me to know he has no pain now. Quentin is the toughest individual I have ever played with and I know how hard he fought to beat this terrible disease. He will be sorely missed right across the rugby league community.” – Current Canberra coach and former teammate, Ricky Stuart.
“A legend, an absolute legend of rugby league. He played the game full on all the time, gave no quarter and the same with his cancer, he fought it until the bitter end – a wonderful man.” Sir Peter Leitch.
Vodafone Warriors and Kiwis hooker Issac Luke tweeted: “Farrrrrout this has saddened our @NRL and @NZRL_Kiwis community. Moe mai rā tōku tuakana. Thoughts and love to Q’s whanau. No more pain now brother. Only memories of how tough you were as a player on and off the field. May you rest in Love.”
Ex-Kiwi and Vodafone Warriors centre Nigel Vagana tweeted: “My @NZRL_Kiwis debut .. the 1st Anzac Test.. Johnny Lomax got hurt in opening 30secs. Q had to play 80mins in the front row, 1st game back after a long suspension & led us to victory. One of the toughest ever in the Black & White. Ka kite ano Uso.”
“Very sad to hear the passing of Quentin Pongia. One of the toughest NRL players of modern rugby league, and that reflected especially when he represented the Kiwis” – Kiwi and Manly Sea Eagles player, Martin Taupau tweeted.
“Being born in NZ but growing up in Oz, I found myself always following Kiwi players, regardless of the club jersey they wore. Quentin Pongia was one of the toughest to ever wear the black jersey and I’m so grateful to have known him. Rest In Peace Q” – Former Kiwi, Dene Halatau tweeted.
We invite you to join us at a luncheon hosted by Sir Peter Leitch, in support of Quentin’s family at the Ellerslie Event Centre on June 7.
Photo – PhotosportNZ
Although the Warriors and Broncos are now out of contention for the NRL Premiership, Kiwis fans will still have plenty of players to follow as the semi-finals near – the Storm, Roosters and Panthers all have a liberal sprinkling of NZ stars.
Outside the Warriors who contributed nine, Kiwis coach Michael Maguire named no fewer than 17 players from the other NRL top-eight sides this week in his wider training squad for the 13 October Test against the Kangaroos.
We scan the rosters of the other seven teams for the Kiwis who could shine in the finals series and lead their team to the premiership.
Kiwi connection: Sosaia Feki, Ava Seumanufagai.
Feki was born in Auckland, playing for the Junior Kiwis before making two appearances for Tonga. Feki finished as the Sharks’ top tryscorer in the 2014 season and was selected for the Kiwis 24-man squad, but didn’t play a match.
He notched seven tries and two assists from 13 appearances this season. At 27, he will be looking to prove to the Sharks he’s still got plenty left in the tank, as well as Maguire who included him in the Kiwis wider squad.
Kiwi connection: Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Jesse Bromwich, Kenneath Bromwich, Jahrome Hughes, Sam Kasiano, Brandon Smith.
One to watch: Jahrome Hughes
Hughes was born and raised in Wellington but moved to the Gold Coast in 2008. Before his move to the Storm, he had more clubs than NRL games making just two appearances over four years with the Titans and Cowboys.
Hughes, known for his natural pace, had arguably his best performance against the Dragons this season in a 52-30 win in round 17, starring with 209 metres and a try.
Kiwi connection: James Fisher-Harris, Corey Harawira-Naera, Sione Katoa, Moses Leota, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Dean Whare.
One to watch: Moses Leota
Leota was born in Auckland, but raised in Penrith. In a 2015 NYC squad that included Nathan Cleary, Leota came away with the NYC Player of the Year title.
Look out for the uncompromising prop to come off the bench. The Panthers have won in every game he has scored in this season.
Leota also showed his softer side after the Panthers’ loss in Auckland last month, in a Twitter video surprising his emotional mum with the keys to a new car.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS
Kiwi connection: Leeson Ah Mau, Jordan Pereira.
Leeson Ah Mau
Ah Mau, born in Auckland, made his NRL debut back in 2009 for the NZ Warriors. Since then he has played 139 games for the Dragons over seven seasons, being named their player of the season in 2015.
Au Mau’s only appearance for the Kiwis came against England this year, and he retained his spot in the wider squad named this week.
The prop is in arguably his career best season, with a successful tackle percentage of 95 per cent, and will return to the Warriors next year.
Kiwi connection: Isaac Liu, Joseph Manu, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
Manu was born in Hamilton but raised in Tokoroa. In 2014, he represented Australia in an under 19’s rugby league nines tournament at the Commonwealth Games. However, in 2015, he played for the Junior Kiwis against the Junior Kangaroos.
The young centre, still only 22, notched up six tries and eight assists from 23 appearances for the minor premiers this season to earn a spot in the Kiwis squad.
Kiwis flood star-studded line-ups of the NRL’s top performing teams after round two of the 2018 season.
The Manly Sea Eagles recorded their biggest ever win over the Paramattah Eels, 54-0, with their Kiwi contingent leading the charge.
Monstrous forwards, Addin Fonua-Blake (Kiwi #807) and Martin Taupau (Kiwi #785) were sublime up front providing the muscle to get their side across the line for nine tries – one of which Fonua-Blake crossed for himself.
In another game most wouldn’t have picked, Kiwi #769 Alex Glenn was among the top defenders adding to his impressive 82 tackles he has racked up over just two rounds. That propels Glenn into third spot for most tackles behind Andrew McCullough and Jake Friend.
With Glenn’s defense and the attacking nouse of Kodi Nikorima (Kiwi #793), the Broncos stunned the Cowboys in a stellar 24-20 victory in front of a home crowd in Brisbane.
The Warriors didn’t disappoint either, bringing home their second win making it two from two.
Kiwi skipper Adam Blair continued to make his presence known, offload after offload connecting with Kiwis teammate and Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to produce some moments of brilliance.
Tohu Harris also provided the grunt in the forward pack finding himself on the NRL leaderboard for third most linebreak assists.
There were also plenty of Kiwi boys in the Tigers side that orchestrated the upset of round two defeating the Storm 10-8.
It was Kiwi #756 Ben Matulino whose pass found the hands of Luke Brooks who dived to score the match-winner shocking a disbelieving Melbourne crowd.
Led by veteran Kiwi half Benji Marshall, whose organisational skills and intelligent kicking constantly tested the Storm’s back three, the visitors stepped up once again.
The Tigers refused to get overawed by the Storm’s monster pack and led by Kiwis Russell Packer, Ben Matulino and Elijah Taylor dominated the early exchanges.
If round two’s performances are anything to go by, Kiwi fans will be in for a treat when the first international Test in Denver comes about in June.
The NRL is set to play a Telstra Premiership match in the United States as early as next year.
Multiple media reports say the game is set to be played in the US, with planning already underway to make it a reality.
It is likely that the two sides who play in the US would be given extended breaks on either side of the long trip in order to deal with the minimum 12-hour flight players would face in both directions.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg told Fairfax Media that planning was well advanced.
“We’re in discussions about that now,” Greenberg said. “It’s a big landing process on a number of fronts. You need to work with the broadcasters, you’ve also got to work through travel, recovery. But it’s certainly on our radar.
“The destinations in North America are available in a good broadcast timeslot, so that’s what we’re looking at. The ball is in our court in regards to scheduling and player workload. We’re actively working on that now for 2019 and 2020. Next year we could have teams playing for points in America.”
If the game was played on the West Coast means cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and possibly even Las Vegas would be in the mix.
As far as stadiums go, the NRL will have a plethora to choose from.
From the 90,000 seat Rose Bowl in Los Angeles to dozens of smaller rectangular venues used by both professional and college teams, there is no shortage of options.
As seen on NRL.com
Not one but five Wests Tigers captains have been named for the 2018 NRL season – three of them being Kiwis.
Returning great Benji Marshall will hold the reins along with fellow recruits Russell Packer and Josh Reynolds.
Tigers stalwart Chris Lawrence and New Zealand international forward Elijah Taylor complete the leadership group hand-picked by coach Ivan Cleary.
Lawrence – vice-captain last season – had been tipped to vie for the sole Tigers captaincy with Taylor this year but Cleary had other ideas.
“When we started this pre-season it was pretty obvious straight away that there was no real pecking order,” Cleary said.
“There was no set culture to adhere to. It was all new.
“With this particular team at this time I think it’s going to work best to spread that role and allow those blokes to develop in their own way.”
It marks a triumphant return for Tigers premiership winning half Marshall who links with the joint venture for the first time since leaving for rugby in 2013.
Former NSW half Reynolds slots into the leadership group after arriving from Canterbury while forward Packer has been acknowledged since his off-season move from St George Illawarra.
It is believed the captaincy group will share week to week duties such as leading the team out onto the field, press conferences and other off-field responsibilities.
Wests Tigers take on North Queensland in their opening NRL trial in Cairns on Saturday night.
Marshall is the only squad member who will not attend, remaining in Sydney alongside wife Zoe ahead of the expected birth of their first child.
The Tigers’ final trial is against Cronulla at Campbelltown on February 24.
As seen on TV One