As the #KiwiNRL takeover continues, following this Anti-Auckland Young Kiwis idea in the coming years will be an interesting activity. I've managed to come up with a team of 13 of young kiwis from around Aotearoa, excluding Auckland and a bare 13 is the starting point. It's taken a few years to get to this stage where I can drop such a team and even now, I've still had to make a few funky decisions to get that 13.
I don't hope, I know that naming an actual 17-lad team will be possible in the coming years. The number of youngsters joining Australian clubs from around Aotearoa is high - whether they have been scouted from their rugby league exploits or their work in rugby union - they are just a year or two away from cracking the NRL, let alone establishing themselves in the NRL.
There's a wave, a wave of young kiwis from outside of Auckland who are coming through the ranks of Australian clubs and right now we are paddling, about to ride that wave.
Here's the team of 13...
Fullback: Jordan Kahu (Petone/Wellington - 26yrs)
Wings: Jamayne Isaako (Christchurch - 21yrs), Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Waikato - 22yrs).
Centres: Joseph Manu (Tokoroa/Waikato - 21yrs), Tohu Harris (Hastings - 25yrs).
Halves: Fa'amanu Brown (Christchurch - 22yrs), Kodi Nikorma (Palmeston North/Manawatu - 23yrs).
Middles: Nelson Asofa-Solomona (Wellington - 21yrs), Ava Seumanufagai (Wainuiomata/Wellington - 26yrs), James Fisher-Harris (Hokianga/Northland - 21yrs).
Hooker: Danny Levi (Wellington - 21yrs)
Edges: Corey Harawira-Naera (Waimamaku/Northland - 22yrs), Joseph Tapine (Wellington - 23yrs).
There aren't any strict parameters around 'young'. Jordan Kahu and Ava Seumanufagai are the veterans of the team at 26-years-old, plus they share the Wellington vibes so they'll form the leadership crew along with Tohu Harris.
Seumanufagai is in an interesting spot as he was a consistent selection through the middle for Wests Tigers up until Ivan Cleary's arrival, which coincided with Seumanufagai sealing a move to Cronulla Sharks for next season. Along with the emergence of middle forwards like Alex Twal and Matt Eisenhuth, Seumanufagai has struggled to get game time for the Tigers as Cleary builds towards the coming years. Cronulla themselves need to move on from an older forward pack, so expect Seumanufagai to come back into prominence as he moves to the Shire.
Kahu and Seumanufagai lead a strong Wellington crew, joined by Danny Levi, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Joseph Tapine. Levi is a focal point of Newcastle Knights rebuilding phase and his development has come through a tough couple of years for the Knights, giving him the opportunity to shine as the Knights emerge on the other side. Tapine could have been part of that rebuild, although a move to Canberra has been great for the beastly edge forward and the though of Canberra building around Tapine on one edge and Josh Papalii on the other edge should excite any Raiders fan.
Melbourne Storm have been able to stay relevant and dominate in part due to the greater responsibility handed out to Asofa-Solomona. Melbourne obviously have a fair amount of talent, the size, mobility and skill of Asofa-Solomona however gives them a serious dose of x-factor against other grizzly forward packs. Of this group of Anti-Auckland Young Kiwis, Asofa-Solomona is the most dominant player and he's arguably the most dominate #KiwiNRL player in the league right now.
Christchurch are simmering away as a rugby league nursery and as we see that wave of youngsters break into the #KiwiNRL, don't be surprised to see many come from the Canterbury region. This year we saw Jamayne Isaako make his debut for Brisbane Broncos and it's no easy task to make your debut at fullback, for the Broncos with Wayne Bennett as coach; that tells you all you need to know about this kid.
Isaako's Cronulla Sharks 2014 Under 20s comrade Fa'amanu Brown also hails from Christchurch and he has featured prominently during Origin. Brown has had to sit behind Chad Townsend and James Maloney, plus the Sharks have been well-stocked at dummy half this season through Jayden Brailey and James Segeyaro. This has prompted a move for Brown to go to the Bulldogs where there's huge upside for Brown to stake his claim at a consistent starting spot, he'll just have to work around Kieran Foran and the drama of the Bulldogs.
The Doggies will shed some players though, so I can see Brown sliding into the halves or holding down a bench utility spot. Brown's halves partner in the Anti-Auckland Young Kiwis team will be Kodi Nikorima, who has progressed in lovely fashion with the Broncos as he has followed the Ben Hunt path of moving from bench utility to half. Now Nikorima is mid/long-term halfback of the Broncos and he's pushing for a Kiwis halves spot, all from the mellow Manawatu.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak picks himself on the wing and that he is only 22-years-old is bonkers as he's been on the scene for ages. I've slid Tohu Harris into centre because Harris is the ultimate GC and was willing to make the move to accommodate our edge-forward depth, although this isn't a crazy move for Harris as he's played centre for Melbourne many, many times before. Harris hails from Hastings in Hawke's Bay and quickly became a dependable figure for the equal-best coach of my lifetime Craig Bellamy, so Harris must be doing something right.
Circumstance has pushed Joseph Manu out of his starting spot in a slick Roosters backline, we can't overlook him to start at centre for the AAYK. Manu was spotted by the Chooks playing for Tokoroa High School and his footwork is as good as I've seen, there's size to this kid as well and although I reckon Roosters coach Trent Robinson has nailed a backline that he'll take into the finals, expect Manu to be a regular next season.
Last but not least we have the two Northlanders in Corey Harawira-Naera and James Fisher-Harris. Northland and the deep south are Aotearoa's funkiest #KiwiNRL frontiers and there are Southlanders lurking in the #KiwiNRL shallows, waiting to play their role in the takeover. Thanks to Penrith Panthers recruitment creativity, they unearthed two lads from the Hokianga region and they are being duly rewarded for their recruitment efforts.
Harawira-Naera hails from Opononi and has sat on Penrith's right edge ever since making his debut, while Kohukohu's Fisher-Harris has had to battle injuries this season but looks powerful and aggressive whenever he plays. Penrith are extremely well-equipped for a successful few years after this season thanks to their plethora of young talent and part of that is thanks to their efforts in going outside the conventional/old #KiwiNRL box to broaden their recruitment horizons.
Peace and love 27.
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