Former Parramatta utility Api Pewhairangi, a New Zealand Maori representative who played for Ireland at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, has joined the Vodafone Warriors on a one-year NRL contract.
After making four NRL appearances for the Eels in 2013, the 22-year-old Palmerston North-born Pewhairangi spent the 2014 season playing New South Wales Cup football with feeder club Wentworthville.
A decision to register for Vodafone Warriors’ New South Wales Cup trial last month has given him a new rugby league destination after he switched from rugby union as a teenager.
“We were well aware of Api’s ability after watching him come through the NYC and New South Wales Cup as well as playing some NRL football for the Eels,” said Vodafone Warriors general manager football Dean Bell.
“He was a real standout at our New South Wales Cup trial. We immediately invited him to join our squad for offseason training and he has continued to make a big impression which has now resulted in him being contracted.
“He has played in the centres but we like the look of him in the halves where he will definitely add to our depth.”
Pewhairangi, fluent in Te Reo, played three games in the centres and one at standoff for the Eels in 2013.
He played rugby union in Manawatu but switched to rugby league at the age of 17, forging a future in the code when he moved to Wellington and joined the Te Aroha Eels.
Signed by the Newcastle Knights in 2009 he played for the club’s NYC side from 2010-2012 – he was captain in 2012 – and also played in the Knights’ NRL trial against the Vodafone Warriors at Wingham Park in Greymouth in 2011.
Switching to Parramatta for the 2013 season, Pewhairangi appeared for the club at the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines, made his NRL debut and also gained selection in the Ireland side for the Rugby League World Cup, qualifying through his Irish grandmother. He played two of Ireland’s three matches, used in the centres against Fiji and England having represented New Zealand Maori since 2011 and the Junior Kiwis in 2012.
Utility Steve Waetford, who captained the Vodafone Warriors’ New South Wales Cup side this year, has been re-signed this week. Also re-signed recently were fellow 2014 NSW Cup regulars Albert Vete, Nathaniel Peteru, Sam Cook, Upu Poching and Jarrod Tua while Vodafone Junior Warriors Viliami Kaveinga and Mason Lino have been added to the NRL squad along with prop Herman Retzlaff; Lino was originally set to take up a contract with Carcassonne in France but has since been signed after undergoing shoulder surgery.
The Vodafone Warriors’ wider NRL squad (including New South Wales Cup players) is: Bradley Abbey, Matthew Allwood, David Bhana, Sam Cook, Ray Faitala-Mariner, Glen Fisiiahi, Nathan Friend, David Fusitu’a, Charlie Gubb, Siliva Havili, Ben Henry, Ryan Hoffman, Konrad Hurrell, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Shaun Johnson, Solomone Kata, Viliami Kaveinga, Ngani Laumape, Thomas Leuluai, Jacob Lillyman, Mason Lino, Sam Lisone, Tuimoala Lolohea, Sione Lousi, Simon Mannering, Suaia Matagi, Ben Matulino, Ken Maumalo, John Palavi, Nathaniel Peteru, Api Pewhairangi, Dominque Peyroux, Upu Poching, Sam Rapira, Herman Retzlaff, Bodene Thompson, Sam Tomkins, Chad Townsend, Jarrod Tua, Manu Vatuvei, Albert Vete, Steve Waetford.