The annual Junior Kiwis fixture is upon us and that can only mean that it's time to Meet The Junior Kiwis for 2019. For those who ain't in the know, this year's squad has changed from under-20s to under-19 and instead of lining up against their Junior Kangaroos equivalent, they'll face an Australian School Boys team ... who tend to play against Aotearoa Under 18, hence this is so weird.
I explored a few different ideas when the wider squad was initially cut down to a squad of 19, then even more undercover changes were made. Penrith Panthers forward Spencer Leniu was named in the squad-squad despite already playing for New South Wales Under 20s this year and Leniu was then scratched, as was Mathew Timoko who is playing for Canberra Raiders Jersey Flegg (u20) in their Jersey Flegg Grand Final on Sunday. In came Charbel Tasipale who is with Parramatta Eels, along with Christian Tuipulotu who lost to Timoko's Raiders in the Flegg semi-final playing for the Roosters.
The actual team-list has been announced with Knights forward Christian Ma'anaima and Warriors fullback Emanuel Tuimavave-Gerrard missing out on top-17 selection.
Here's what you need to know about the 2019 Junior Kiwis.
Named at centre, Iro is already an international for Cook Islands and played one game of Canterbury Cup footy this year. The Mount Albert Lions junior and Mount Albert Grammar school trooper cracked the 2017 National Secondary Schools Tournament Team that also featured Selestino Ravuataumada, Starford To'a, Sione Moala and Jordan Riki who are all named in this Junior Kiwis squad. Last year, Iro was named in the Aoteaora Under 18 Residents and he will be eager to wiggle his way into consistent game time in reserve grade for Aotearoa Warriors.
While still being at school, playing 1st 15 rugby for Kings College as a winger/midfielder, Temple Kalepo not only had a massive impact for Aotearoa Warriors Jersey Flegg at hooker, he also managed to play a Canterbury Cup game. Somehow Kalepo ended up playing 1st 15 rugby and reserve grade in the same ear which is bonkers, although not surprising for someone who has worked through the NZRL pathway from Aotearoa Residents U16 in 2017 to Under 18 Residents in both 2018 and 2019; Kalepo is playing under 18 and under 19 for Aotearoa in the same year folks. Powerful hooker who will offer plenty of oomph off the bench for Junior Kiwis.
Earlier this year, Sydney Roosters named their squad to go to England for the World Club Challenge and the name Asu Kepaoa appeared. Having cracked Aotearoa under 16 in 2016, then Aotearoa under 18 Residents squad in 2017, Kepaoa then settled into Roosters SG Ball footy and received a major vote of confidence from Roosters coach Trent Robinson in spending so much time around their NRL team. Kepaoa went to Sacred Heart College and played 14 games of Canterbury Cup for North Sydney Bears this year, which apart from Starford To'a having already made his NRL debut, makes Kepaoa one of the classiest Junior Kiwis in this squad.
Etuale Junior Lui Toeava
De La Salle College and Otahuhu Leopards junior Etuale Lui-Toeava got a weird bit of attention when he was signed by North Queensland Cowboys in 2016, receiving a full banger news story via them mainstream media. This was weird because Toeava's story of being recruited by an Australian NRL club is kinda exactly the same to many other #KiwiNRL players in Australia and this got weirder as Toeva is clearly an outgoing, fun fella who spun a few yarns in for local news. Toeava is now with Parramatta Eels, where everything appears to truckin' along nicely with Toeava moving through SG Ball to Jersey Flegg with the Eels and now named as a starting middle forward for the Junior Kiwis.
Having won Newcastle Knights' SG Ball Player's Player earlier this year, Ma'anaima went straight into Jersey Flegg footy for the Knights where he established himself as a middle forward, alongside fellow Junior Kiwi Daniel Ticehurst - sometimes the starting props. A Glenfield Greyhounds junior and Westlake Boys High School lad, Ma'anaima won't be playing in this Junior Kiwis game but is part of a growing #KiwiNRL whanau at Newcastle as comrades Ticehurst and To'a are joined by Jirah Momoisea who spent all season in Canterbury Cup and also named on a few NRL extended benches.
Last year Sione Moala was named Aotearoa under 16 Player of the Year, this year he is the starting halfback for the u19 Junior Kiwis. Moala and Kalepo are the only players from the 2019 Aotearoa Residents u18 team to also make the Junior Kiwis, hence Moala has the same vibe as Kalepo as nothing is surprising about their current achievements. Moala spent the bulk of the season in the halves for Warriors Jersey Flegg, winning Flegg Rookie of the Year and we only need to look back a year or two for examples of the Manurewa Marlins junior's pedigree; despite being u16, Moala still cracked the 2017 National Secondary Schools Tournament Team.
Moala must have been 14 or 15 in 2017, as he was also in the Aotearoa Residents u16 in 2018. Even though Moala would have been one of the youngest players at the 2017 NSST, he made the tournament team and then in 2018 he was named NSST MVP, now he is most likely the youngest player in the Junior Kiwis.
One of two South Island soldiers in this Junior Kiwis squad, Griffin Neame has a point of difference in hailing from rugby league heartland Greymouth. The West Coast Rugby League product made Aotearoa Residents u16 in 2017 and then went to Christchurch to play for Halswell Hornets u18 last year as North Queensland Cowboys came calling. Neame quickly moved through Townsville Blackhawks u18 to play much of this year in the Hastings Deering Colts (u20) competition for Townsville, making such an impression that he is now a starting middle forward for Junior Kiwis.
Aotearoa Warriors Jersey Flegg forward Junior Pu'a will come off the bench for the Junior Kiwis, after a strong 2018 saw Pu'a command further attention. The Manurewa Marlins junior made the 2018 NZSSTT from Manurewa High School, alongside Marlins comrade Moala and then went on to play for Aotearoa Residents u18 last year.
Part of the rather bonkers group of outside backs this Junior Kiwis squad has assembled, is Selestino Ravutaumada who joined Aotearoa Warriors from Rotorua Boys High School ahead of this season. While with RBHS, Ravutaumada made the 2017 and 2018 NSSTT and he then established himself on the wing for the Flegg Warriors and is named to start on the wing for Sunday.
Jordan Riki is the only player from last year's Junior Kiwis to make the 2019 Junior Kiwis even though the age group changed. That's a reasonable sign of Riki's quality, otherwise I can point you to the 16 Intrust Super Cup games he played for Norths Devils as part of Brisbane Broncos system, or honours such as Aotearoa u16 Player of the Year in 2017. Riki hails from Christchurch where he played for St Thomas of Canterbury College and is named to start in the middle for Junior Kiwis; Riki mainly came off the bench for Norths, played two games starting on the wing and two games starting as an edge forward as well.
Another decorated junior, Tyler Slade won the Aotearoa u18 Player of the Year award and was in Aotearoa u18 Residents for both 2017 and 2018. An Ellerslie Eagles junior, Slade mainly played as a middle forward and then shifted to hooker to play 12 Canterbury Cup games for Aotearoa Warriors after starting the season in Jersey Flegg. Slade is now named to start at hooker for Junior Kiwis where he will share the hooking duties with Warriors homie Temple Kalepo.
Couldn't find too much information on Charbel Tasipale, other than him being Parramatta Eels Best Forward for their SG Ball team last year. Tasipale then played Jersey Flegg for the Eels and was a late inclusion to this Junior Kiwis squad where he'll start as an edge forward.
Recruited by Cronulla Sharks out of Marcellin College in Auckland, Vito Tevaga moved through the Sharks SG Ball team last year to play this year in Jersey Flegg. Tevaga made the Aotearoa Residents u18 squad in 2017 prior to moving to Cronulla and also represented Toa Samoa u18, who played against Aotearoa Residents u18 last year. Named to start at centre, Tevaga has played at wing as well and has previously dabbled in the halves.
Another who crept under the radar to emerge with the Knights this season, Daniel Ticehurst as enjoyed a swift rise through the ranks. Originally from Wellington where I believe he went to Aotea College, Ticehurst then moved to Ipswich State High School near Brisbane and was then snapped up by the Knights. Injury ruled him out of Knights SG Ball footy in 2018, although Ticehurst then moved into Flegg and ended up playing two games of Canterbury Cup for the Knights off the bench. That'll be his role for the Junior Kiwis as well.
Coming through St Pauls College in Auckland to make Aotearoa Residents u18 and the NSSTT in 2017 (among numerous other rep honours), Starford To'a then joined Newcastle Knights. To'a made his NRL debut for the Knights this season, after playing just three games of Canterbury Cup and while he made his debut on the wing, To'a has been named at fullback for the Junior Kiwis.
Via the presence of Starford To'a and Asu Kepaoa, Emanuel Tuimavave-Gerrard misses out on selection for the game after playing most of this season at fullback for Warriors Flegg. Tuimavave-Gerrard has developed through the NZRL system, making Aotearoa u16 in 2016, then Aotearoa u18 Select in 2017 and u18 Residents in 2018.
You must know that you're doing something right when Sydney Roosters are coming hard with their recruitment and that's exactly what they did in luring Tuipulotu away from the Warriors. Tuipulotu was an Aotearoa Residents u16 rep in 2016, Aotearoa u16 MVP for 2017, NSSTT in 2018 and Aotearoa Residents u18 in 2018 while at St Pauls College and Tuipulotu has now spent the year with the Roosters Flegg team. While Tuipulotu played most of the season at centre, he will start on an edge for the Junior Kiwis and for many, this will be the first glimpse at one of the most decorated prospects in the mix.
Warriors Jersey Flegg Player of the Year, Paul Turner played eight games of Canterbury Cup footy; six of which were at fullback. Turner hails from Northland and was named in the Aotearoa Residents u18 in 2017, then Aotearoa u18 who played Australian School Boys that year. Turner played alongside Eels half Dylan Brown for Northern Swords u15 and will start in the halves with his Warriors halves partner Moala.
A Mount Albert Lions junior, Isaiah Vagana wasn't really in the mix for any age-group rep teams until being named as a standby player for Aotearoa Residents u18 last year. Then Vagana spent the season with Warriors Flegg and will come off the bench to play through the middle.
Hit an ad to support the Niche Cache.
The Niche Cache is also on Patreon where you can help out and join the whanau.
Peace and love 27.