NRL round one also means that it's time to see the reserve grade Aotearoa Warriors spark up their season in the Canterbury Cup. As folks like to change their competition names every odd year, we'll stick to NSW reserve grade from this point on and if you enjoy a bit of reserve grade funk, I do a mini break down of both reserve grade competitions (NSW and QLD) from the #KiwiNRL perspective on Patreon each week.
This week the Warriors are up against Canterbury Bulldogs prior to the NRL game and there is no shortage of intriguing selections from new reserve grade coach Nathan Cayless.
Fullback: Paul Turner.
Wings: Edward Kosi, Lewis Soosemea.
Centres: Gerard Beale, Adam Pompey.
Halves: Hayze Perham, Chanel Harris-Tavita.
Middles: Tevita Satae, Clayton Williams (no #13 named).
Edges: Ligi Sao, Leivaha Pulu.
Hooker: Karl Lawton.
Bench: Sam Cook, Paulos Latu, Preston Riki, Phillip Makatoa.
The new arrivals to Mt Smart are Adam Pompey and Clayton Williams, while the rest of the lads named were either in reserve grade last season or in Jersey Flegg. Pompey joined the Warriors from Sydney Roosters where he mainly played Flegg, dabbling in reserve grade for Wyong Roos and that centre pairing of Pompey and Beale is enticing.
As for Williams, he's been on a weird old journey to get to this point and while he's not in the Warriors top-30 now, he could be an option to bolster the middle forward depth in the future. Williams was with the Rabbitohs Under 20s, winning their Player of the Year award in 2015 and having played reserve grade, leading to him playing for Aotearoa Maori in 2017, Williams then spent time in France playing rugby union last year before coming to the Warriors.
I don't know much more, but Williams was Man of the Match in the Warriors ressies game vs Canterbury Bulls a few weeks ago. If Williams has come to the Warriors and earned a starting middle forward spot after some soul-searching in French rugby, it's a fair sign that the lad goes alright and he has the superficial awards to back it up as well.
The Warriors not only haven't named a #13 for this game, they are yet to publish anything about the reserve grade on their website and also haven't named anything about a Jersey Flegg squad. This makes it niggly to try and offer as much background info as possible about the young lads coming through and as Flegg footy doesn't start until next week, it'll be interesting to see if there is any crossover from this week's ressies and next week's Fleggers.
Turner, Kosi, Soosemea, Perham, Harris-Tavita, Riki and Makatoa were all eligible for Flegg last season. Apart from Perham and Harris-Tavita, who I think spent most if not all of last season in reserves, the rest were chopping between Flegg and reserves.
Having Turner at fullback and Perham in the halves is notable as it sets Perham up to further his development as a halves prospect. Last season he went from Rotorua Boys High School straight into the reserves fullback spot and it was Turner who played halves for Flegg, dabbling in reserves. I reckon Perham is as much an NRL halves prospect as Harris-Tavita and having them play alongside each other is a huge boost for the club's halves depth.
My hunch is that because Perham is closer to being an NRL half right now than Turner, he's shifted into the halves. The Warriors fullback depth is also a factor given that if Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is injured, then Peta Hiku is next in line and after Hiku a few others can be juggled around. Turner is the youngest and should benefit from consistent fullback footy in reserve grade, without being beat up having to defend too much. All about developing players and setting them up for success.
Riki and Makatoa are undercover young forwards to keep an eye on this season. Riki won the Sonny Fai Medal last season as the Warriors best Jersey Flegg player, has consistently hovered around various NZRL age-group squads and came through Mount Albert Grammar School. Makatoa has cracked a few Aotearoa rep squads while being with Sydney Roosters and the Mangere East junior came back to Auckland last season to join the Warriors.
Next week we will have ressies and Fleggers to suss out which will make it a bit more fun. With the Flegg teams we'll be able to see who has joined the Warriors at the under-20 level and also see how the Warriors use their Flegg group, especially with Greg Boulous coming n as head coach. Right now, given how strong the ressies group is, I reckon we are going to see a mighty Flegg group rolled out and thus giving the Warriors three strong levels of development.
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Peace and love 27.