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NZRL Media Release - Taurahere offer hope to offshore Kiwis

NZRL Media Release - Taurahere offer hope to offshore Kiwis

There's a bigger game being played out at this week's "Got A Trade?" NZRL National Youth Tournament in Rotorua.

Sure, the emphasis will be on a fever-pitch battle for the two titles up for grabs in 15s and 17s age groups, currently held by Akarana Falcons and Counties Manukau Stingrays respectively.

And the competition will provide yet another opportunity for NRL agents and scouts to uncover the next great Kiwi talent.

But the sub-plot to this event will be New Zealand's Rugby League's attempt to capture the hearts of its offshore talent before it is snapped up by Aussie state programmes.

On Monday and Friday, the NZ 18s will face the Taurahere Kiwis, a side made up of NZ-eligible players from New South Wales. Most are players who have come through the domestic age-group pathway, before signing contracts with Australian clubs.

But, in future, this may include more whose families have relocated across the Tasman or even players that have never lived in New Zealand, but claim Kiwi heritage.

Like Valentine Holmes, who recently turned down the chance to play for the NZ Kiwis, and pledged his allegiance to Queensland and Australia.

"There are several layers to this," explains NZRL talent development manager Dean Watkins. "Firstly, we want to reconnect with our players that have transferred to Australia to strengthen their bonds with Aotearoa.

"It's a chance for early talent identification of players with NZ affiliations and to build their desire to wear the black jumper before Junior Kiwis stage.

"And it also ensures that we have regular high-quality fixtures for our NZ-based age group sides, so we're not reliant on other organisations."

The NZ 18s and 16s have recently enjoyed a rivalry with Queensland Academy of Sport, but were left without fixtures this year, when the Maroons withdrew.

"We're not trying to get a sign of allegiance from these kids," says Watkins. "We're purely giving them an opportunity to play for their country at an early age, which they have been denied previously, because they're living outside the country.

"We see their value in the international game."

Coached by former Central Vipers age-group coach Rangi Hiroti, the inaugural Taurahere side includes son Haimona (South Sydney) and Daniel Lillicoat (Cronulla), both former NZ 16s representatives.

Faitatoa Faitatoa (Newcastle) played for NZ 18s last year, while Joseph Manu, Chevy Ellis and Poasa Fa'amausil have already worn an Australian jersey. They were part of the Sydney Roosters team that won the SG Ball Cup competition and represented that country at the Commonwealth nines tournament in Glasgow this year.

"This team will be a quality side, even though they're missing some of their superstars through injury or unavailability," says Watkins.

The vision for the Taurahere programme would see an annual game between NSW and Queensland-based sides, with an Australian selection then facing the NZ national teams in both age groups.


Puketawhero Park, Rotorua

First Test - Monday, September 29, 12.45pm

Second Test - Friday, October 3, 12.15pm


Sione Afemui (Canberra Raiders), Harry Barsdell (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Harlan Collins (Manly Sea Eagles), Chevy Ellis (Sydney Roosters), Poasa Fa'amausil (Sydney Roosters), Faitatoa Faitatoa (Newcastle Knights), Kalani Going (Canberra Raiders), James Fisher-Harris (Penrith Panthers), Haimona Hiroti (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Jamayne Isaako (Cronulla Sharks), Paora Kemp (Illawarra Steelers), Daniel Lillicoat (Cronulla Sharks), Joseph Manu (Sydney Roosters), Moses Mc Greal (Manly Sea Eagles), Marcel Owen (Wests Tigers), Sifa Talakai (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Johnathan Tufuga (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Netana Vi (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jack Williams (Canberra Raiders)

NZ 18s

Joseph Apikotoa (Wellington/Randwick), Erin Clark (Akarana/Pt Chevalier), Mattais Heimuli (Akarana/Glenora), Mafoa'aeata Hingano (Counties Manukau/Pakuranga), Jamel Hunt (Counties Manukau/Otahuhu), Zion Ioka (Akarana/Glenora), Nick Lui-Toso (Akarana/Glenora), Dre Melvin (Wellington/Porirua), Christian Mika (Counties Manukau/Otahuhu), Tyler Mohi (Counties Manukau/Mangere East), Ofahiki Ogden (Counties Manukau/Mangere East), Fabien Paletua-Kiri (Mid Central/Kia Ora), Reuben Porter (Akarana/Te Atatu), Joseph Price (Counties Manukau/Mangere East), Ken Tofilau (South Island/Halswell), Fuaimamao Uta (Akarana/Northcote), Tiaan Wilkins (Counties Manukau/Mangere East), Eddie Wulf (Akarana/Marist), Logan Yates (Akarana/Pakuranga)


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