Another week and another bunch of reserve grade changes via shuffling of Aotearoa Warriors NRL team, while the club's depth is again on display with the Jersey Flegg crew. Both teams host their Penrith Panthers counterparts at Mt Smart on Saturday and while the NRL had a shocker in Christchurch, an 18-18 draw in reserve grade and a 24-12 win in Flegg rounded out a solid weekend for the club.
Adam Keighran drops down to reserve grade this week and after initially being named in the halves, Hayze Perham will again play fullback. Perham was a late move to fullback for last week's game vs Blacktown Sea Eagles and Pewhairangi partnered Chanel Harris-Tavita, now Perham's at fullback and Pewhairangi partners Keighran. This feels like it's the end of Perham dabbling in halves duties, coinciding with Pewhairangi emerging as a solid halves option.
Having Pewhairangi hold things down in reserve grade could be beneficial given the volatile NRL situation with Keighran and Harris-Tavita, as well as the fact that those two and Perham are youngsters. All of this has Patrick Herbert settling into a centre role as well, he shifted to centre last week and has again been named alongside Adam Pompey as the starting centres for this week.
Lewis Soosemea must have been injured as he returns in place of Setu Tu, then we also have Taane Milne named to start as an edge forward. We are a couple rounds in now and what we have is the natural sorting process unfold, where players end up in positions they are best suited to and it's a flow on effect; Perham at fullback, Herbert and Pompey centres, Milne as edge forward.
Of course, Milne could be a beastly centre in reserve grade, however the best option to have all these lads on the park is Milne playing edge. I'm not sure if Milne will graduate to an edge forward role with the NRL team, the intriguing possibility here is that Milne could be an enticing bench player as he could cover edge/outside backs for the NRL team. Think of Blake Ayshford (best clubman at the Warriors), but more dynamic.
For those who don't know - Asyhford is being used rather exclusively as an edge forward now in reserve grade. With Ayshford and Milne starting as edge forwards and Ligi Sao sliding up to NRL, Leivaha Pulu gets a chance through the middle after playing on edge edge in recent weeks. This is intriguing as Pulu is someone I want to see in the NRL squad coming off the bench, mainly as a middle forward and he now gets his crack in reserve grade at this role.
Sam Cook played all 80 minutes at hooker last week as Karl Lawton probably traveled down to Christchurch with the NRL squad. Another low key selection is Tahi Baggaley who has graduated from extended squads and being a late call up, to being named as #14. I'm not sure what position Baggaley's being used (he was a back in rugby union in Christchurch), but he may give Cook a spell or be an edge forward option.
I continue to be impressed by the Flegg teams that are being named and this week's 17 feels like it's the strongest of the season thus far. The main feature is William Fakatoumafi being named at fullback and all signs point to Fakatoumafi being a youngster with immense potential. Fakatoumafi moved to Southern Cross Campus from Alfriston College in Auckland, with the clear goal to win a national schoolboys title in 2017 and he did exactly that, while also winning best fullback honours.
Earlier this year Fakatoumafi was named in the Aotearoa Residents Under 18 wider squad and Fakatoumafi is joined by Caleb Pese, Temple Kalepo and Jyris Glamuzina as being named in this week's Flegg team and that U18 wider squad. Shout out Sione Moala as well, who is 18th man this week and in that U18 wider squad, dropping out of the Flegg team to welcome Paul Turner back into the halves.
With Fakatoumafi at fullback, Kayal Iro shifts to the centres alongside Patrick Elia. Raymon Vaega makes way for Iro and Harley Maynard makes way on the wing for Selestino Ravutaumada. It looks as though the wingers have all been getting opportunities, so it will be interesting to see who coach Greg Boulous eventually settles on as the best wingers out of Ravutaumada, Maynard and Emanuel Tuimavave-Gerrard.
The forward pack is otherwise reasonably settled with the only notable change being Tom Ale starting in place of Phillip Makatoa. These two are effectively sliding back and forth between Flegg and reserves as Ale played 17 minutes for reserves last week and Makatoa started for Flegg.
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Peace and love 27.