Aotearoa Warriors reserve grade coach Nathan Cayless has dropped his first team list for 2019 as the reserves head down to Christchurch where they will face Canterbury Bulls on tomorrow (Saturday). First and foremost, it's bloody funky that the Warriors are taking their reserve grade trials around Aotearoa and playing against domestic teams.
This is in alignment with the new vibes coming out of Mt Smart since the winds of change swept through the crypts, bringing the revolution. There is obvious benefit for the Warriors and prior to the reserves playing against the Bulls, there will be the second women's open trial of 2019; there was one in Auckland last weekend and tomorrow is the South Island open trial.
To me, this feels like the Warriors are taking greater responsibility for rugby league in Aotearoa. That's a broad idea, not based on these Christchurch activities tomorrow and this is more about tomorrows games being part of a far larger shift in attitude. Having been impressed with the changes that have taken place with the NRL group, on a bigger scale, I settle on a feeling of pride in how the Warriors are leading the way for rugby league in Aotearoa.
Cayless' squad is a great insight into the prospects coming through the Warriors, which after the NRL trial team named by Stephen Kearny to face Melbourne Storm has me frothing with excitement. It's hard to roll through the team and suss out each individual, especially as I don't see a whole lot of value in that right now as we are still in trial stage and need to wait to see which prospects earn consistent reserve grade selection. That includes focus on which Jersey Flegg eligible players are playing reserve grade as would have been identified as being ready for big boy footy.
With that in mind, the notes below aren't a strict guide as to the best prospects at the Warriors or players to keep an eye on. They are merely thoughts that popped into my noggin' as I read through the list...
Who is halfback Casey Smith?
That post suggests that Smith is from Northcote Tigers and as he played Auckland Maori Under 20s last year, Smith is obviously 20-21yrs. Selected alongside Kayal Iro (Mt Albert) who played Aotearoa Under 18s last year, this is a young halves combo and points to brewing halves depth at the Warriors given that fellow youngsters Chanel Harris-Tavita, Adam Keighran, Hayze Perham and Paul Turner were selected for the NRL trial.
Players from 2018 Aotearoa U18 Residents, selected in this trial squad:
Kayal Iro - half.
Patrick Elia - centre, recruited out of Christchurch.
Tevita Mikaele - centre, Otahuhu Leopards.
Tyler Slade - hooker, Ellerslie Eagles.
Emmanuel Tuimavave-Gerard - bench, Mt Albert.
Patrick Elia returns to Christchurch having been snapped up by the Warriors prior to last season. Elia was a highly touted union schoolboy in Christchurch and is now joined by another Cantabrian who spent time in various Crusaders junior squads in Tahi Baggaley. Having attended St Andrews College, Baggaley played premier rugby for Sydenham last year in the midfield and could emerge as an outside back prospect with the Warriors.
The funky point here revolves around the Warriors continuing to expand their recruitment and in Elia and Baggaley, they have two youngsters who both played junior rep footy for the Crusaders at same point. Rest assured that the Warriors scouting and recruitment is steadily improving.
To reinforce the above; Wesley Veikoso starts at prop in this trial and he made various Aotearoa rep teams from the Mid Central region. Veikoso appears to be yet another exciting talent from Kia Ora Warriors (Manawatu) and a quick scroll, or regular check of their Facebook page gives you a lovely insight into the #KiwiNRL takeover as there's an abundance of Kia Ora juniors now aligned with NRL clubs.
Along with the Aotearoa Warrior stepping up their recruitment of players around Aotearoa, we have also seen major improvements in bringing those players who leave Aotearoa to Australian clubs as part of the #KiwiNRL takeover, back to Aotearoa. That is perhaps the most impressive sign of the Warriors being in a good place as they attract players back to Aotearoa and this trial squad features Kalani Pehwairangi-Charlie who left Aotearoa to join the Cronulla Sharks system.
Pewhairangi-Charlie played for Manukura (college) and joined fellow Manwatu product Jackson Ferris at the Sharks - relevant because Ferris also played for Kia Ora Warriors. Pewhairangi-Charlie went to various schools in Wellington and Auckland (mainly Kura Kaupapa schools) before shifting down from Auckland to Manukura in Palmerston North for his final school year. Pewhairangi-Charlie played Jersey Flegg for Cronulla last year and can play middle or edge.
Tyler Slade playing at hooker is interesting, given that he's predominantly featured at lock in Jersey Flegg and various rep teams.
Starting alongside Veikoso is Clayton Williams, who won the Rabbitohs U20s Player of the Year back in 2015, as well as Best and Fairest. Williams then slid into North Sydney Bears footy after cracking a few Rabbitohs trial squads to start 2017, then played for Aotearoa Maori at the end of 2017 before a stint in French rugby last year. Funky journey for Williams and I'm not sure how he ended up with the Warriors, but he's obviously impressed various coaches and various stages of his career.
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Peace and love 27.