Aotearoa Warriors reserves grabbed a W last week over Penrith Panthers, while the Jersey Flegg youngins' suffered defeat to the Panthers and today, both teams take on South Sydney Rabbitohs at North Harbour Stadium. In reflecting on the Warriors NRL win over Gold Coast Titans, I highlighted Ligi Sao's monstrous performance and if you missed that, here are the basics:
Keep in mind that Sao played NRL footy the night before, kinda crazy. We'll have to wait and see if Sao fronts for reserves again or if he's made the trip over to Sunshine Coast to be with the NRL squad. Sao wasn't named in the Canterbury Cup team but given all the fiddling that is done with these squads for game day, it's impossible to predict. The reserves have a fairly settled forward pack otherwise, well the starting crew any way.
Fullback: Hayze Perham.
Wings: Edward Kosi, Lewis Soosemea.
Centres: Patrickt Herbert, Adam Pompey.
Halves: Adam Keighran, Api Pewhairangi.
Middles: Chris Satae, Clayton Williams, Leivaha Pulu.
Edges: Blake Ayshford, Taane Milne.
Hooker: Sam Cook.
Bench: Jackson Frei, Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Preston Riki, Sean Mullany - Paulos Latu.
The funk is on the bench where Jackson Frei has been named by coach Nathan Cayless to make his first appearance for the Warriors since shifting from the Roosters system. Frei and Adam Pompey both came from the Roosters/Wyong Roos, with Frei on the come back trail from injury. Depending on where Sao is, it will be interesting to see the final make up of the bench as Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard and Sean Mullany have both been promoted from Flegg.
What's weird here is that Tuimavave-Gerrard is primarily a winger and Mullany is a hooker. While the other wing spot has been rotated between Selestino Ravutaumada and Harley Maynard, Tuimavave-Gerrard has started every Flegg game on the wing to now slide into reserve grade. I have no idea what will happen with Tuimavave-Gerrard and he could very easily be the lad to make way if a middle forward drops down from the NRL squad like Sao.
Playing dynamic, robust outside backs through the middle isn't a crazy idea though. This season, Moses Suli commanded such a role for Melbourne Storm before injuries to their outside backs saw Suli move out wide. Suli is big and obviously moves like an outside back, which can add some x-factor to the middle - I have a hunch Tuimavave-Gerrad might take up such a role.
As regular readers will know, Mullany was last year's Junior Kiwis hooker and was signed from North Queensland Cowboys. Sam Cook has been playing 80 minutes at hooker and the process of easing Mullany through the grades is a huge narrative to keep an eye on as he probably has more potential upside than Cook.
Guess who has been named to start on the wing for Flegg?
Fullback: William Fakatoumafi.
Wings: Emanuel Tuimavave-Gerrard, Harley Maynard.
Centres: Patrick Elia, Kayal Iro.
Halves: Paul Turner, Sione Moala.
Middles: Wesley Veikoso, Phillip Makatoa, Tyler Slade.
Edges: Brody Tamarua, Isaiah Vagana.
Hooker: Temple Kalepo.
Bench: Caleb Pese, Jyris Glamuzina, Neyla Masima, Michael Lemafa - Casey Smith.
Again, who knows what will actually happen with Tuimavave-Gerrard but he's been selected in both squads. It's not crazy to suggest that he could play both, with limited minutes off the bench in Canterbury Cup. William Fakatoumafi holds down the fullback role and on a very basic level, this is a sign that Fakatoumafi is a fullback prospect of note as he's commanding selection with Kayal Iro playing centre.
Another prospect who we can safely say is doing a solid job of impressing coaches, then snapping up opportunities is Sione Moala. Moala had initially been behind Paul Turner and Casey Smith to start the season, now he's starting ahead of Smith and the fact that Fakatoumafi and Moala weren't in the early squads, but are both now starting is a decent sign of their ability.
With Mullany up in reserves, Temple Kalepo starts at hooker. Kalepo has come off the bench to start the season, now gets the chance to start and looks to have played 1st 15 rugby for Kings College as well as being embedded in various Aotearoa age-group rugby league squads; most recently Aotearoa Residents Under 18s Wider Squad.
On the bench, much like Frei in Canterbury Cup, is Neyla Masima who joined the Warriors in the summer and makes his first appearance for the club. Masima was a sought after prospect playing 1st 15 rugby for St Patricks Silverstream in Wellington and is most likely going to operate through the middle for the Flegg team as a big, mobile unit.
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Peace and love 27.