Aotearoa's Maori Ferns team to face the NRL Women's All Stars has been named and voting is open for the Maori All Stars (men's) team, where you vote who you want in your Aotearoa Maori All Stars. This raises a minor dash of funk as I probably would be preferred that the men's team was simply selected by a panel of respected Maori rugby league figures, from a list of available players.
Other than all of Aotearoa voting for Steven Adams to be an NBA All Star, fan voting is a bit weird. Especially for such honours as representing Aotearoa and your heritage.
The major dash of funk is in the Maori Ferns squad where Tazmin Gray and Zahara Temara have been selected, after representing Australia in their win over Aotearoa last year. Gray is the sister of Jordan Rapana and played for Sydney Roosters alongside Temara in NRLW, both also played for Queensland last year.
That Queensland team also featured former Kiwi Fern Rona Peters (Brisbane Broncos) and Rona is joined by sisters Hilda Mariu and Kahurangi Peters (both Warriors).
From the Kiwi Ferns team that played against Gray and Temara, Amber Kani (Warriors) appears to be the only player backing up. Warriors dummy half Krystal Rota is the other notable name in the Maori Ferns squad.
Funky names from the list of lads eligible to be voted into the Maori All Stars team include Kayln Ponga, Dane Gagai, Jarome Luai, Jordan McLean, James Tamou, Lloyd Perrett, Moaeki Fotuaika and Leivaha Pulu. The rest are fairly obvious to any kiwi rugby league fan, but these names are funky in terms of being unexpected or simply cool that they are opting the Maori route.
Everyone's going to be talking about Ponga, Gagai, McLean and Tamou, however I'm more interested in a few lads who probably won't be voted into the actual team; Luai, Pulu and Fotuaika.
Luai was a Junior Kiwis captain in 2017 and then represented Samoa at the World Cup, while also being highlighted as the guy who will take over from James Maloney and partner Nathan Cleary for Penrith Panthers. Pulu's funky as I just didn't know he was Maori eligible after representing Tonga a few times, while Fotuaika ... well, where do I begin?
Fotuaika is the hottest NRL middle forward prospect, looking at ease after making his debut for Gold Coast Titans last season. This led to Fotuaika featuring in the Tonga squad that faced Samoa mid-year, then again in the squad for the game vs Australia, after Fotuaika played alongside Luai in the 2017 Junior Kiwis.
Named in the Junior Kiwis wider squad in 2018, Fotuaika was instead part of the Tonga squad and while everyone's looking at the big names like Taumalolo, the international route Fotuaika goes down is far more interesting. I expect Fotuaika to stick with Tonga and in an unexpected off-shoot of the Maori All Stars, Fotuaika (like others) can represent their main polynesian heritage while also paying homage to their Maori heritage without having to play for Aotearoa Kiwis.
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