#KiwiNRL Encyclopedia: 2019 NRL Season Preview #1 (Broncos, Raiders, Bulldogs)


Brisbane Broncos

Alex Glenn - Northcote Tigers (Auckland)

With a new coach, it'll be interesting to see how Glenn develops as he was one of Wayne Bennett's most reliabe forwards. Most likely going to feature on the edge, the return of Matt Gillett could make this niggly, however Glenn is likely to find fresh vibes with Anthony Seibold as coach.

Kodi Nikorima - Burnham Chevaliers (Christchurch)

Another who will be eager to take the fresh Seibold vibes is Nikorima and for the Broncos to be successful, they need to suss out this Nikorima/Anthony Milford combo. Having started with Shaun Johnson for Aotearoa Kiwis last year, Nikorima has to sustain a high level of play for Brisbane to hold on to his Kiwis spot.

Jamayne Isaako - Aranui Eagles (Christchurch)

Lightning feet, powerful runs and a slick boot, Isaako will be out to build on an impressive 2018 which saw him slide into Kiwis contention. He'll be pegged out on the wing, however don't sleep on some fullback minutes if the opportunity arises.

Sam Tagata'ese - St. Bernard's College (Wellington)

The OG, guiding Brisbane's young polynesian forwards into NRL. There is a reason Tagata'ese has received two one-year deals despite playing much NRL footy and it's a beautiful thing.

Canberra Raiders

Ata Hingano - Pakuranga Jaguars (Auckland)

The Hingano hope is for game time in the halves. Despite dabbling in some dummy half duties since arriving at the Raiders, Siliva Havili will operate behind Josh Hodgson and Hingano will need to play himself into halves contention. No Blake Austin this season, but Jack Wighton is apparently the most likely to partner Aidan Sezer, thus leaving Hingano with plenty of work to do.

Brad Abbey - Pakuranga Jaguars/Richmond Rovers (Auckland)

Lost in Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad's move to Canberra and rapid rise to be the leading contender for the starting fullback spot, is Abbey. Up to this point, Abbey was the back up to Wighton and now the re-shuffle leaves Abbey as the likeliest back up to Nicoll-Klokstad. A wing spot could open up at some point, just don't expect to see much of Abbey this season - far from ideal as he is yet to establish himself in the NRL.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad - Mt Albert Lions/Richmond Rovers/City Newton Dragons (Auckland)

Having sniffed around consistent NRL minutes, spark one up if you want to see Nicoll-Klokstad start at fullback and stay there for Canberra Raiders.

Jordan Rapana - Tugun Seahakws (Gold Coast - from Wellington)

Out for the start of the season via injury, we won't see Rapana for a while. Aotearoa's wing depth is immense as well, so don't be surprised to see others overtake Rapana in the Kiwis wing stakes.

Joseph Tapine - Harbour City Eagles (Wellington)

Things could get weird for Tapine this season as he has impressed on an edge and through the middle, however Canberra signed England international John Bateman. This clutters the edge forward ranks as another England international Elliott Whitehead also plays edge, leaving me to wonder how coach Ricky Stuart will use Tapine. Either way, Tapine will be excellent.

Sia Soliola - Ponsonby Ponies (Auckland)

Expect another strong job-doing season from Soliola, who has done a great job to establish himself as the leader of the Raiders forward pack.

Saliva Havili - Manurewa Marlins (Auckland)

There are many funky options that revolve around Havili, especially with a healthy Hodgson. Last season, Havili started at dummy half and was doing such a good job, he demanded further selection when Hodgson returned from injury and played as a middle forward. Expect the same this season as Havili's speed/power adds a bit of variety to the Raiders pack, or Havili can slide into hooker with Hodgson playing first-receiver. With Wighton learning his craft as a half, Hodgson will likely spend a lot of time play-making and this would be possible due to Havili's reliability.

Bailey Simonsson - Knox Grammar School/Newingnton College (Sydney)

A low key #KiwiNRL signing from Canberra, Simonsson grew up in Sydney but as his father was an All Black (Paul), Bailey has sustained a strong connection to Aotearoa. This led to Simonsson playing rugby union in Aotearoa after Under 20s footy for the Bulldogs, then a stint in the All Black Sevens team. Simonsson had also spent time with the Raiders at some stage (he's homies with Nick Cotric), perhaps why he felt comfy heading back to Canberra. He's a 20-year-old outside back and will add to the Raiders depth, although Simonsson will most likely spent most of the season with Mounties.

Canterbury Bulldogs

Morgan Harper - Ngaruawahia Panthers (Waikato)

Featuring heavily at centre and outside back for the strong Bulldogs reserve grade team last year, Harper then played centre for the Junior Kiwis. Tall, lean and athletic, Harper will start in reserve grade and look to pounce on any NRL opportunity.

Jeremy Marshall-King - All Saints Toongabbie (Sydney - Whakatane)

Unlikey to get many minutes in the halves, look for Marshall-King to compete with Fa'amanu Brown for dummy half minutes. He'll offer halves depth, although I reckon he will come off the bench at hooker in round one.

Raymond Faitala-Mariner - Otahuhu Leopards (Auckland)

After a nice start to the season which saw him earn a Kiwis call up, Faitala-Mariner suffered an injury and wasn't sighted again. Consistent footy, on an edge is what we want from Faitala-Mariner and ideally he'll get an early chance to command further opportunities.

Reimis Smith - Mascot Jets (Sydney)

The Bulldogs ridding themselves of high profile players has worked out great for Smith, who will look to build on a low key lovely season in 2018. Once he got a sniff, Smith was one of the Bulldogs best as the NRL team struggled and while he grew up in Sydney, Smith's father was a Kiwis rep and Reimis was a two-time Junior Kiwi (2017, 2018). It's weird how similar Smith and Harper are, they are both physically similar and both cover centre/wing.

Corey Harawira-Naera - Otaua Valley Warriors (Northland)

A change of scenery and ideally Harawira-Naera can play consistently in one position after moving all over the show for Penrith Panthers. That is most likely to be as an edge forward, however there could be a low key chance at centre as well.

Renouf To'omaga - Porirua Vikings (Wellington)

The Bulldogs have immense edge forward depth, just not quite the same depth through the middle. With guys like James Graham and David Klemmer moving on, we are starting to see the #KiwiNRL middles at the Doggies emerge and despite being overtaken by Ofahiki Ogden last season, look for To'omaga to get a decent crack. Powerful, robust and mobile is exactly what the Dogs need.

Kieran Foran - Ellerslie Eagles (Auckland)

The return of Kieran Foran! Prayer hand emoji that Foran can stay on the park.

Fa'amanu Brown - Hornby Panther (Christchurch)

Same yarn here for Brown, as it was for Marshall-King. Not sure where or how he will get his opportunity, but he'll be eager to finally establish himself in one position having lived on the fringes for a while now.

Francis Tualau - Mangere East Hawks (Auckland)

Same as To'omaga; highly capable, just needs a decent crack.

Ofahiki Ogden - Mangere East Hawks (Auckland)

Reimis Smith was super with regular minutes and his journey through 2018 was matched by Ogden, who settled into a middle forward role. There will likely be more minutes on offer for Ogden this season and while we expect a plateau after bursting on to the scene, I've got Ogden locked in as a youngster to keep a close eye on. He's big, but mobile and that's a great package to have in 2019.

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