I'm not going to offer any great insight into the trial performances of Aotearoa Warriors, nor will I try spot any trends in how the various trial squads are selected. The first trial squad to face Melbourne Storm over in Australia though, does present immense funk in terms of opening the door into who has been low key snapped up by the Warriors to either fill out their top-30, play reserve grade, train/trial or play Jersey Flegg.
This Warriors squad to face the Storm is full of interesting names and a couple of lads who appear to have been brought to Mt Smart on the d-low. Having consistently discussed how the Warriors have flipped their recruitment strategy and are now attracting super impressive young players to the club, this squad only reinforces that idea.
Sean Mullany leads that list and considering many folk have pondering about the future at dummy half for the Warriors, youz may also find it interesting that the Warriors seem to have signed the current Junior Kiwis dummy half. Mullany started at hooker for the Junior Kiwis last year, alongside Hayze Perham, Tom Ale and Isaiah Papali'i - who are also named in this trial squad and Mullany did so from North Queensland Cowboys.
The Cowboys aren't exactly flush with dummy half depth right now and Jake Granville reflected the Cowboys struggles last season, so for Mullany to now be at Mt Smart is a bit weird. Mullany is from Auckland and looks to have gone through Avondale College, making numerous age group rep squads from Akarana to Taurahere to Aotearoa Under 18.
Weird note: Mullany was in the 2016 Aotearoa U17 merit team, along with an impressive list of #KiwiNRL prospects but most notably Etene Nanai-Seturo and Kayleb Milne. They both made the team from Counties Manukau and then just happened to appear at Saint Kentigern College where they played 1st 15 rugby. As most will know, Nanai-Seturo is now with Waikato Chiefs, while Milne is with Melbourne Storm.
One thing to keep an eye on with Mullany is that he already has a combination with Hayze Perham and Paul Turner via Aotearoa U18. Perham was fullback in that team, while Turner was in the halves, with Mullany at hooker, along with lower-level Warriors prospects Tyler Slade and Dylan Tavita. Turner is also in this trial squad, meaning that Perham, Turner and Mullany could play minutes as the spine.
Mullany can also dabble in halves duties apparently, but has cracked recent Aotearoa teams at hooker and while I won't make any grand judgements from any trial stuff; with Issac Luke, Nathaniel Roache and Mullany on the books, don't expect Jazz Tevaga to feature much at hooker this season.
For those surface-scratchers who want the headline Warriors signings, you're probably disappointed at the moment. For those Diary Of An Aotearoa Warriors Fan folk, know that the Warriors have signed the current Junior Kiwis hooker in Mullany (in some capacity).
That's got me fizzing, frothing and fiddling. Then we get to confirmation that Patrick Herbert, Adam Pompey and Neria Fomai are in the Warriors mix, along with Api Pewhairangi who looks to have returned from Europe having been in the Warriors mix before.
Herbert and Fomai had both been training with the Warriors over the summer. Herbert was a Junior Kiwi in 2016 and 2017, capable of playing centre, wing and fullback and was lured away from St George Illawara Dragons to return to Auckland. Fomai is a bit of an unknown quantity at the moment, having played Sevens for Samoa and NPC for Southland Stags in the midfield.
Fomai could be an outside back prospect, or fullback. I reckon it's a stretch to think of him as a halves prospect and the Warriors have plenty of of those at the moment, especially with Perham sliding into the halves mix. Fomai could emerge as an option to play fullback in reserve grade, thus offering depth behind Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Pompey joins the Warriors halves depth, although he's equally as likely to climb through the outside back depth chart. Again, having talked a lot about these guys over summer, I'll keep this short; Pompey was signed from Wesley College by the Roosters, then went through their SG Ball and Jersey Flegg to play a few reserve grade games for Wyong Roos last year.
As for Pewhairangi, I'm not sure how or where he fits in but he's capable of being a halves option and playing centre. This trial squad features the following players who are either spine players, or could develop into spine players; Sam Cook, Neria Fomai, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Adam Keighran, Sean Mulaney, Hayze Perham, Api Pewhairangi, Adam Pompey, Nathaniel Roache, Paul Turner.
Feels like rather exciting depth to me, so don't let folks bring you down with chat about the Warriors being crap at recruitment or lacking the depth to compete at a high level.
The other funky aspect of this trial squad are the youngsters who are rising through the ranks at Mt Smart. Other than guys already named (Harris-Tavita, Cook, Roache, Turner etc), Tom Ale, Brody Tamarua, Lewis Soosemea and Cole Waaka are the notable prospects on the rise. All four are most likely going to strictly play reserve grade this year, with Soosemea perhaps being a possibility to play NRL if there are injuries to the wingers.
Following this trial, the trial squads will start to resemble the NRL top-tier of the Warriors and thus we probably won't get the same level of funk. An away trip to face Melbourne Storm is the perfect situation to give the wider Warriors group some game time and while many are unlikely to crack the top-30, there will be hefty reserve grade implications.
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Peace and love 27.