First-time selections David Fusitu’a and Solomone Kata are among six players from the Vodafone Warriors’ 2016 squad named today for the Kiwis’ coming Test against the Kangaroos in Perth and the following Four Nations tournament.
Fusitu’a and Kata join standoff Thomas Leuluai, halfback Shaun Johnson, back rower Simon Mannering and hooker Issac Luke.
Kata (21) has been outstanding in his first two seasons in the NRL, topping the team’s try-scoring list both years in totalling 27 tries in 45 appearances. He’s now in line for his Kiwi Test debut after previously playing at international level for Mate Ma’a Tonga.
Fusitu’a, 22 on October 16, also comes into the Kiwis after representing Tonga in this year’s Pacific Test against Toa Samoa. Fusitu’a, who made his NRL debut in 2014, had his most intensive campaign this year appearing in 18 matches and scoring 11 tries to lift his career tally to 20 in 33 matches. He also underlined his versatility by playing on the wing, in the centres and at fullback.
The Wigan-bound Leuluai, Johnson, Mannering and Luke are among the Kiwis’ most experienced internationals with a total of more than 120 Tests between them.
With long-serving Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney now joining the Vodafone Warriors, his successor David Kidwell today included three other newcomers in the touring squad - Penrith's Te Maire Martin and the Canberra duo Jordan Rapana and Joseph Tapine.
Kidwell also confirmed Melbourne's Jesse Bromwich as captain.
Recalled after a three-year absence is Sydney Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
If selected to play on tour, one of the five newcomers has the opportunity to become Kiwi #800.
“All of these players have shown exciting form during the NRL season and have certainly earned their selection on merit,” says Kidwell.
“But we’re always looking one step ahead, whether that’s to next year’s World Cup or beyond, and we also think all these players can play a big part in keeping the Kiwis on top for many years to come.
“In picking this team, we’ve tried to achieve a balance between players who are proven at test level and those that are the future of the Kiwis' programme. Injuries play an unfortunate part in our game and some of these newcomers will get an immediate opportunity to show they’re ready for the next level.”
Players unavailable for the up-coming campaign include Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Peta Hiku, Dean Whare, Kieran Foran, Ben Matulino, Alex Glenn and Kodi Nikorima.
Kidwell opted to retain Bromwich (Kiwi #775) as his captain, continuing the role he filled against Australia at Newcastle in May.
“Jesse did a great job leading the team earlier this year in Simon’s absence and, at this stage of his career, I think Simon is just as happy not having the weight of captaincy on him,” says Kidwell.
“But, ultimately, they will both be part of a strong leadership group that set a strong culture for this team.”
The Kiwis will assemble in Perth next weekend for the Test against Australia on October 15.
They open their Four Nations account against host England on Sunday, October 30 (NZ time) at Huddersfield, followed by Australia (November 6) and Scotland (November 12).
2016 KIWIS TO TOUR AUSTRALIA AND ENGLAND
Gerard Beale (Cronulla), 767, 8 Tests
Adam Blair (Brisbane), 732, 35 Tests
Jesse Bromwich (Melbourne), 775, 18 Tests
Lewis Brown (Manly), 762, 10 Tests
Greg Eastwood (Canterbury Bankstown), 737, 24 Tests
David Fusitu'a (Vodafone Warriors)
Tohu Harris (Melbourne), 778, 11 Tests
Shaun Johnson (Vodafone Warriors), 774, 15 Tests
Jordan Kahu (Brisbane), 790, 4 Tests
Solomone Kata (Vodafone Warriors)
Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Sydney Roosters), 746, 17 Tests
Thomas Leuluai (Vodafone Warriors), 704, 34 Tests
Issac Luke (Vodafone Warriors), 749, 36 Tests
Simon Mannering (Vodafone Warriors), 731, 41 Tests
Te Maire Martin (Penrith)
Manu Ma'u (Parramatta), 795, 1 Test
Jason Nightingale (St George Illawarra), 747, 29 Tests
Kevin Proctor (Melbourne), 771, 12 Tests
Jordan Rapana (Canberra)
Joseph Tapine (Canberra)
Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland), 786, 5 Tests
Martin Taupau (Manly), 785, 10 Tests
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters), 755, 17 Tests
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith), 794, 1 Test
2016 FOUR NATIONS | SCHEDULE
(GMT times listed)
October 28, 8.00pm | Australia v Scotland, KC Lightstream Stadium, Hull
October 29, 2.30pm | England v New Zealand, John Smith’s Stadium, Huddersfield
November 5, 5.30pm | England v Scotland, Ricoh Arena, Coventry
November 5, 8.00pm | New Zealand v Australia, Ricoh Arena, Coventry
November 11, 8.00pm | New Zealand v Scotland, Zebra Claims Stadium, Workington
November 13, 2.00pm | England v Australia, London Olympic Stadium, London
November 20, 2.30pm | Final, Anfield, Liverpool