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You won't have to look far to spot the Kiwi connections at Mount Smart Stadium tonight.

Fact is, this ninth-round NRL encounter between the Vodafone Warriors and the Wests Tigers (7.30pm kick-off) has a New Zealand flavour like no other match before.

When the original 21-man squads were named on Tuesday, as many as 29 of the 42 players across both line-ups had Kiwi connections through their birthplace, being raised in New Zealand or representing New Zealand.

The Tigers could count 10 New Zealand-born players in Esan Marsters, Benji Marshall, Pita Godinet, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Josh Aloiai, Michael Chee Kam, Sauaso Sue, Matt McIlwrick and Malaki Watene-Zelezniak. And there are also two other New Zealanders in the club’s squad this year in prop Russell Packer and Tuimoala Lolohea.

Other Kiwi touches are provided by former Vodafone Warriors coach and fullback Ivan Cleary (who lived in Auckland for a total of 10 years during his playing career from 2000-2002 and then as a coach from 2005-2011) and assistant coach Andrew Webster, who was at Mount Smart Stadium 2015 and 2016.

For the Vodafone Warriors, the only players without a direct New Zealand connection are Australia-born and raised standoff Blake Green and interchange hooker Karl Lawton.

In the New Zealand-born category are David Fusitu’a, Peta Hiku, Ken Maumalo, Shaun Johnson, Bunty Afoa, Issac Luke, Simon Mannering, Tohu Harris, Adam Blair, Sam Lisone, Isaiah Papali’I, Anthony Gelling, Albert Vete and Sam Cook.

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Samoa), Mason Lino (Samoa) and James Gavet (Sydney) may have been born overseas but all three came to New Zealand at a young age and have been raised here while Tonga-born Agnatius Paasi calls New Zealand home and Solomone Kata, also born in Tonga, has been in Auckland since his secondary school days and has also represented the Kiwis.

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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