Under the grand radar of NRL shenanigans, there have been a couple notable #KiwiNRL signings with decorated juniors Kayleb Milne and Steven Marsters signing on with new clubs. Milne made the immediate move from Melbourne Storm to Cronulla Sharks, while Marsters will move from St George Illawara Dragons to South Sydney Rabbitohs for next season as the Rabbitohs build their #KiwiNRL prospect farm.
These are heavy duty #KiwiNRL signings for a variety of reasons and there are plenty of footy nerd weeds that I've tangled myself in. I'll start with Milne, who was in the 2018 Junior Kiwis squad but was one of two players in that squad who didn't end up playing and was yet another youngster who was recruited by Melbourne Storm out of St Kentigern College 1st 15 rugby.
Dig deeper and the funk only gets slimier. Regular readers will know that the big rugby schools in Aotearoa love to snap up the best rugby league talent, or simply produce rugby union talent for the NRL and Milne is the peak of this. Milne was in Counties Manukau Under 17 league team in 2016 and was in the same team as Etene Nanai-Seturo, both of whom then played 1st 15 rugby for St Kents. Milne and Nanai-Seturo then earned selection in the U17 Merit Team, along with fellow #KiwiNRL prospects Starford To'a (Knights), Sean Mullany (Warriors), Javvier Pitovao (Bulldogs), Alfred Smalley (Sea Eagles), Phillip Makatoa (Warriors), Wesley Veikoso (Warriors), Cruz Topai-Aveai (Sharks).
Milne has already made an appearance for Newtown Jets in Canterbury Cup since making the move, after playing three games for Sunshine Coast Falcons in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup. The Falcons are a Storm feeder club, Jets are aligned with Sharks and it's a good sign that Milne got straight into reserve grade action with the Sharks playing 20mins off the bench last week.
Also of note here is that Milne joins Cruz Topai-Aveai and Braden Hamlin-Uele at Cronulla Sharks. Hamlin-Uele has been immense this season for the Sharks, perhaps the breakout #KiwiNRL forward of 2019 and Topai-Aveai is a highly touted prospect from Christchurch. If these three ever play NRL together for the Sharks, alongside Briton Nikora, it would be amazing and could be even crazier if centre Jackson Ferris can also graduate into NRL footy around the same time; Ferris was 2018 Junior Kiwi centre and is from Manawatu.
Rabbitohs signing Steven Marsters may be the biggest #KiwiNRL prospect signing of this year, considering the pedigree of Marsters. Marsters is a two-time Junior Kiwis rep (2017/18) and doubling up on Junior Kiwis duties is an honour reserved for the best prospects (Patrick Herbert, Jamayne Isaako, Greg Leleisiuao, Reimis Smith, Chanel Harris-Tavita, Emry Pere, Isaiah Papali'i etc). Marsters was recruited by the Dragons and went through the Dragons schooling system, so for the Rabbitohs to come in and sign Marsters just as he should be pushing for NRL selection is slightly bonkers.
It's part of a #KiwiNRL recruitment drive for the Bunnies though, as earlier in the year they signed Jaxson Paulo from Gold Coast Titans. Paulo is another decorated #KiwiNRL junior having moved to Gold Coast at a young age from Auckland and coming through the Titans system, this had Paulo part of numerous Taurahere camps (Australia based Kiwis-eligible juniors).
Paulo is a centre/wing, while Marsters is also an outside back with scope to play fullback. They were both part of the 2017 Aotearoa Under 18 squad, with Paulo starting on the wing and Marsters 19th man, while Rabbitohs prospect Mawene Hiroti started on other wing. That means that the Bunnies now have Hiroti, Paulo and Marsters all in their squad for 2020 and beyond. All three could be competing for the same outside back spots which could be weird, however they can all dabble in multiple positions; best case scenario is that Rabbitohs go from being #KiwiNRL haters to having all three in their backline.
Marsters will play out the season with Illawara Steelers and is unlikely to wiggle into NRL footy this year as the Dragons centre depth is solid (Euan Aitken, Tim Lafai and Zac Lomax). Paulo is already with the Rabbitohs as an in/out reserve grader while he develops.
The last wrinkle here is that the Titans not only lost a play they had brought through their system in Paulo earlier this year, this week they also lost Jesse Arthars who returned to the Titans this year. Arthars has also been part of Taurahere camps, being born in Auckland, although we did know whether he will go down the Queensland or Kiwis route. Having spent time with Storm and Rabbitohs before cracking NRL footy with the Titans, Arthars has now signed with Brisbane Broncos for 2020.
Arthars appears to be following Anthony Seibold, who has also been with Storm and Rabbitohs. Don't expect Arthars to get much for footy with the struggling Titans this season and while I have no idea how Arthars fits into the Broncos group - they have hefty outside back depth - it's a great move to escape the Titans.
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