NRL trials give us a minor insight into who has worked themselves on to the fringes of NRL selection in 2019 and for our #KiwiNRL perspective, that means a new crop of funky prospects. To set the scene for this season, I've plucked a bunch of names out of the second weekend of NRL trials as young lads who are largely unknown at this point of their careers to the casual footy fan.
As these guys are solely from the second week of trials and are names taken from the squad lists, there will of crouse be others who fall in the 'upper echelon #KiwiNRL prospect' bucket. This is merely a sign of the #KiwiNRL depth brewing and further reinforcement of the #KiwiNRL takeover. Keep in mind that many #KiwiNRL players have been born or grown up in Aotearoa and have polynesian heritage, thus meaning that #KiwiNRL depth is also a sign of great depth primarily for Samoa and Tonga.
Newcastle Knights have bolstered their roster dramatically in recent years, which makes it unlikely that we'll see either Jirah Momoisea or Starford To'a play any NRL footy this season. Both were named in the Knights squad of 23 to face Cronulla Sharks and both are products of St Pauls College in Auckland. As is the trend these days, Momoisea initially played rugby union and was involved in Auckland and Blues representative stuff before giving league a crack with St Pauls.
Jirah then landed a contract with Melbourne Storm, less than a year after starting his league journey and as the Storm contract was for a year, Momoisea then slid up to Newcastle Knights where he played Jersey Flegg footy last season. Momoisea is an edge forward who has a number of more established edge forwards ahead of him and as with many young edge forwards who have mobility and skill, NRL minutes could come through the middle.
To'a is one of the most celebrated #KiwiNRL prospects in existence right now. By celebrated, or decorated, I mean that To'a has made most Aotearoa representative teams to the point where listing his rep achievements is silly. To'a hasn't reached Junior Kiwis level, but was called up to the Knight squad after Shaun Kenny-Dowall was ruled out of the trial via injury and To'a's versatility makes him an enticing prospect to follow.
Coming through the ranks, To'a played all outside back positions and prior to being called up to the NRL trial, To'a was named to start at centre for Newcastle's reserve grade trial team. Any NRL minutes will come on the wing for To'a and while there is no shortage of outside back depth at the Knights, To'a is only an injury away from getting a chance.
Sydney Roosters named a second-string squad for their trial vs Manly Sea Eagles, lacking the bulk of their touring party for the World Club Challenge. This presented a bunch of funky #KiwiNRL names to be listed, led by Poasa Fa'aumasili and Sitili Tupouniua who have both tasted NRL footy. Hopefully we see more of these two this season; Fa'aumausili is a middle and Tupouniua is mainly an edge forward, capable of middle minutes.
On the wing, was Asu Kepaoa who I talked about in sussing out the Roosters WCC squad. Out of Sacred Heart College, Kepaoa has been on the Roosters books for a few years now and is clearly making waves as he backs up his selection in the WCC squad with a nod in this second-string unit. Kepaoa probably won't get any NRL minutes this season as he's probably fourth-fifth in the Roosters winger depth chart, but his progress in reserve grade will be mandatory.
The funkiest of all the Roosters selections though, is Christian Tuipulotu starting at centre. While everyone was buggin' about Etene Nanai-Seturo's departure from Aotearoa Warriors, the hateraide was probably better channeled via the Roosters snatched Tuipulotu from the Warriors system. To'a consistently made Aotearoa rep teams prior to departing for Newcastle and Tuipulotu may have cracked more than To'a, which is kinda crazy but points to why the Roosters recruited him so hard.
Tuipulotu is also a St Pauls product and in an immensely interesting #KiwiNRL note, Tuipulotu was joined by a long list of other notable #KiwiNRL prospects in the 2017 National Secondary Schools Tournament Team. Tuipulotu was joined by his St Pauls comrade To'a, along with the Rotorua Boys High School trio of Hayze Perham, Selesitino Ravutaumada and Tom Ale who are now with the Warriors. Patrick Elia (St Thomas), Lotu Inisi (Westlake Boys) and Kayal Iro (MAGS) were also in this team and are in the Warriors Jersey Flegg system, while Elia's St Thomas of Canterbury College (Christchurch) homie Jordan Riki was recruited to Brisbane Broncos.
The Roosters also appear to have signed Christian's brother, Sione who played a fair amount of edge forward for the Warriors Jersey Flegg alongside Christian last year. In a round-a-bout way, the Roosters swapped centre prospect Adam Pompey (Wesley College) who played Flegg and reserve grade last season, for Tuipulotu; Pompey went back to Auckland to join the Warriors and Tuipulotu headed from Warriors to Roosters.
An interesting move to finish with, is Zach Dockar-Clay moving down from Townsville Blackhawks to join Blacktown in Sydney - who are Manly Sea Eagles reserve grade team. Dockar-Clay was named on the bench for Manly to face the Roosters and after making multiple Junior Kiwis teams (three years in a row), Dockar-Clay has struggled to settle and after a stint in England, Dockar-Clay linked up with his former halves partner Te Maire Martin in Townsville.
Dockar-Clay isn't high on Manly's depth chart and is instead, highly unlikely to crack any NRL game time this year, or maybe ever. The stars could align though and while the younger wave of #KiwiNRL prospects is evident in the exciting talents above, Dockar-Clay is an example of a prospect still sniffing around the NRL looking for a crack.
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Peace and love 27.