Diary Of An Aotearoa Warriors Fan: Lower Grades vs Knights


Today the reserve grade and junior Aotearoa Warriors will host Newcastle Knights as part of an epic Sunday of Warriors footy. By the time you're reading this, the Jersey Flegg lads may have already kicked off at 10am, or the Canterbury Cup lads may be in action at 1:45pm, regardless, I'm here to cast an eye over the team lists and offer a bit of depth to the Warriors coverage.

Based on what has happened with the NRL team, there are a couple of significant moves from reserves coach Nathan Cayless for today's game and we also need to keep in mind that there are always niggly last minute changes to the teams that won't be covered here.

Fullback: Adam Pompey.

Wings: Setu Tu, Cole Waaka.

Centres: Taane Milne, Solomone Kata.

Halves: Adam Keighran, Api Pewhairangi.

Middles: Chris Satae, Preston Riki, Leivaha Pulu.

Edges: Blake Ayshford, Ligi Sao.

Hooker: Karl Lawton.

Bench: Sam Cook, Jackson Frei, Clayton Williams, Phillip Makatoa - Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard, Lewis Soosemea.

The rise of Patrick Herbert into the NRL team, now means that Solomone Kata is chillin' in reserve grade and the centre pairing of Kata and Taane Milne is pretty damn slick. In fact, if we slide into the forward pack, all the starting forwards expect youngster Preston Riki have NRL experience - although predicting reserve grade success is impossible.

Hayze Perham is a notable absentee in the team list and if he is a late inclusion, then he'd most likely move into fullback with Adam Pompey bumping Cole Waaka out of a wing spot. As Herbert has graduated to NRL, Pompey is currently the leading candidate for 'best Warriors reserve grade outside back' and has done a fabulous job at centre or wing, now he gets a dig at fullback after Herbert and Perham filled that role to start the season; Sam Cook played their last week with Herbert, Perham and Pompey all absent.

Pompey is 16th in tackle busts, 15th in tries, 39th in run metres and 18th in line breaks which paints the picture of a solid outside back with room to level up and dominate. That opportunity could come in the move to fullback and I'm hoping that there isn't a late shuffle, to allow Pompey to flex at fullback.

Everything is fairly solid in the forward pack and I'm still of the view that some of these blokes should at the very least be given a decent crack at NRL soon. Instead, coach Stephen Kearney locks them away in reserve grade which is a bummer. Last week in the loss to Bulldogs, Chris Satae had 13 runs/136m and Ligi Sao had 11 runs/150m and they both rank in the Canterbury Cup top-20 for post contact metres - Sao is 18th in just 5 games, everyone else in the top-20 has played at least 6 gams.

Two youngsters also caught the eye vs Bulldogs in Jackson Frei and Phillip Makatoa, offering plenty of oomph off the bench. Frei played 49mins with 8runs/85m and Makatoa played 51mins for 8runs/95m, both over the 10m/run marker and in big minutes. We know Makatoa is dabbling in both reserve grade and Jersey Flegg, so strong performances from him will likely see him sit in reserves as long as he's demanding it.

Here's the Flegg team named by coach Greg Boulous...

Fullback: Emanuel Tuimavave-Gerrard.

Wings: Selestino Ravutaumada, Edward Kosi.

Centres: Patrick Elia, Kayal Iro.

Halves: Paul Turner, Casey Smith.

Middles: Michael Lemafa, Wesley Veikoso, Tyler Slade.

Edges: Brody Tamarua, Tom Ale.

Hooker: Sean Mullany.

Bench: Temple Kalepo, Neyla Masima, Isaiah Vagana, Jyris Glamuzina, Tevita Mikaele.

The Flegg Warriors had a 30-0 win over Victoria Thunderbolts last week and we've got some rotation to dive into this week. William Fakatoumafi drops out after a few weeks at fullback, in comes Emanuel Tuimavave-Gerrard who had been playing on the wing. Selestino Ravutaumada takes that vacant wing spot and Patrick Elia returns to centre in place of Raymon Vaega.

Paul Turner and Casey Smith appear to be the main halves combo, with Sione Moala sprinkled in - with Sean Mullany and Temple Kalepo sharing hooking duties there is no room for Moala in the top-17. Last week Neyla Masima started on an edge, with Brody Tamarua on the bench and this week it's Tamarua partnering Tom Ale as the edge forwards.

There is a splash of insight there, because we didn't really know what position Masima would settle into after moving from rugby union and at this stage it appears like he's in the 'tall, athletic edge forward' mould. Given that Ale can play nearly every position on the field, him settling into an edge spot is kinda interesting as well.

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Peace and love 27.