#KiwiNRL Encyclopedia: 2019 NRL Season Preview (Roosters, Tigers)

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Sydney Roosters

Isaac Liu - Otahuhu Leopards (Auckland)

Steadily growing into a highly dependable forward, Liu will again feature heavily in the Roosters forward pack with his nimble feet. Last season Liu played plenty of footy out on an edge and the arrival of Angus Chricton should see Liu stick to plowing through the middle.

Asu Kepaoa - Sacred Heart College/Richmond Rovers (Auckland)

An interesting outside back prospect to keep an eye on is Kepaoa, who quickly shot into the #KiwiNRL frame over the summer. Kepaoa was playing Jersey Flegg footy last year and worked his way into the World Club Challenge squad, then the Roosters top-30 and offers centre/wing depth.

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves - Iona College (Brisbane - Rotorua)

Continuing to shine in as a leader of a Roosters forward pack that is rarely overmatched. Waerea-Hargreaves has low key snuck back into Aotearoa Kiwis selection with new coach Michael Maguire as well.

Poasa Fa'amausili - Gleonra Bears (Auckland)

Fa'amausili is a young middle forward who will be next in line if there the likes of Waerea-Hargreaves, Sio Siua Taukeiaho or Liu is unavailable. Haven't seen too much of Fa'amausili, however he's obviously doing a nice job to be commanding NRL mixer selection.

Joseph Manu - Tokoroa High School (Tokoroa/Waikato)

The young #KiwiNRL phenom. That's genuinely what Manu is given how slick his footwork is and having already impressed in a Championship season, the for Aotearoa, look for Manu to hit a nek level. Manu will need to develop to fight off greater defensive attention this season as opposition teams suss out his favourable steps etc.

Sio Siua Taukeiaho - Otara Scorpions (Auckland)

I've got a few #KiwiNRL favourites and Taukeiaho is in that group. Never really getting the praise he deserves, Taukeiaho gives the Roosters a serious injection of mobility and footwork through the middle which is equally, if not more valuable than the grunt of guys like Waerea-Hargreaves.

Sitili Tupouniua - Maris Saints (Auckland)

Having played a bit of middle last season, Tupouniua is most likely going to offer edge forward depth this season. Ranked alongside Fa'amausili in the Roosters forwards depth chart, things could fall in favour of Tupouniua to see him play over five games, or he's just as likely to bide his time.

Zane Tetevano - Pacific Sharks (Tokoroa/Waikato)

Another low key strong performer, who injects a bit of x-factor off the bench. Look for Tetevano to stick to his 25-30mins off the bench and if that comes with Liu rotating on, it will give the Roosters a very different look to their middle.

Wests Tigers

Ben Matulino - Te Aroha Eels (Wellington)

I reckon I speak for all #KiwiNRL fans when I say that hopefully Matulino racks up big minutes and lots of wins for the Tigers as he deserves to be enjoying fabulous footy. Matulino has endured a fair bit and was again a strong performer in a solid, but average Tigers forward pack last season. With Maguire now the Tigers coach, Matulino could play his way back into the Kiwis - an exciting thought given the quality of the veterans.

Benji Marshall - Keebra Park High School (Gold Coast - Whakatane)

These twilight years of Marshall's career should be savoured and it's not like Marshall is lingering around without offering a whole lot as he is demanding selection as a Tigers leader. His game has changed slightly and that is another sign of Marshall's quality and while the Tigers are intriguing viewing given their strong #KiwiNRL presence, Marshall himself is fantastic to watch.

Josh Aloiai - Glenora Bears (Auckland)

Aloiai hasn't quite developed as quickly as I thought he might, perhaps a combination of a weird Tigers team and chopping between middle and edge. Hopefully we see Aloiai get given one role, where his size and mobility can impact the Tigers work.

Russell Packer - Levin Lions (Levin/Manawatu)

Steady ol' Rusty. Lacking the ceiling of Matulino and Marshall, Packer isn't as interesting as them, but his career resurgence and status among the Tigers group makes him a funky lad to follow. It's often hard to notice Packer's value, as his stats can be underwhelming, thus Packer is a good case study for those footy nerds wanting to learn how a player can add value without big stats.

Michael Chee Kam - Mt Wellington Warriors (Auckland)

Super impressive as an edge forward last season, Chee Kam can also cover centre and with a deeper forward pack this season, look for him to be the versatile bench guy. Last year was a breakout season for Chee Kam and ideally he continues that trend.

Elijah Taylor - St Pauls College (Hawera/Kaitaia/Auckland)

If there is one #KiwiNRL bloke who needs consistent game time in one role, it's Taylor. Fewer injuries and a clear plan for Taylor is what 2019 is about.

Esan Marsters - Mt Albert Lions (Auckland)

Along with Manu, Marsters has emerged as a #KiwiNRL entertainer. There is the juicy prospect of Marsters improving on last season, however like Manu, Marsters will need to identify how teams are defending him and develop his game. With Manu and Marsters, we need to be aware that their development may slow down in 2019 and be patient.

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