[NRL preliminary finals] New Zealand watch
The number of players with known New Zealand connections in the squads for the NRL preliminary finals this weekend is even higher than it was when the Vodafone Warriors were en route to the 2011 grand final.
Back then there were 23 New Zealand-born or potentially New Zealand-eligible players spread through the Vodafone Warriors, Melbourne, Manly and Brisbane squads that reached the last four (and 13 of those were with the Vodafone Warriors).
This year close to 30 players with New Zealand heritage were among the players initially selected on Tuesday (84 players in total including eight-man extended benches).
Some have opted not to pursue their New Zealand eligibility, like Brisbane standoff Anthony Milford who has New Zealand heritage but opted for Australia (where he was born and brought up; he has also played for Toa Samoa).
NEW ZEALAND WATCH | NRL PRELIMINARY FINALS
Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos
7.55pm (AEST), Friday, September 22
AAMI Park, Melbourne
Melbourne Storm | Jesse Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi, Tohu Harris, Kenny Bromwich, Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Slade Griffin, Jahrome Hughes.
Brisbane Broncos | Jordan Kahu, Anthony Milford, Kodi Nikorima, Adam Blair, Alex Glenn, Benji Marshall, Joe Ofahengaue, Herman Ese’ese, Jaydn Su’a, Jamayne Isaako.
Sydney Roosters v North Queensland Cowboys
7.40pm (AEST), Allianz Stadium, Sydney
Sydney Roosters | Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Isaac Liu, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Zane Tetevano, Joseph Manu.
North Queensland Cowboys | Antonio Winterstein, Te Maire Martin, Jason Taumalolo, Braden Uele.