In-form Vodafone Warriors winger Ken Maumalo is one of seven players in line to make their Test debuts for the New Zealand Kiwis after being named in the 19-man squad for the historic international against England at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado, on Saturday, June 23.
In what will be his first Test as head coach Michael Maguire has called up wings Ken Maumalo (Vodafone Warriors) and Jamayne Isaako (Brisbane Broncos), centre Esan Marsters (Wests Tigers), front rowers Leeson Ah Mau (St George Illawarra Dragons) and Herman Ese’ese (Newcastle Knights), hooker Slade Griffin (Newcastle Knights) and second rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Canterbury-Bankstown).
“I’m excited for each of them and for everyone included for the first major rugby league international ever played in the United States,” said Maguire.
“We have a group of players here who have all been in great form so far this season and totally deserve this chance.
“What has really struck home is just how passionate the players have been when talking to them about playing for the Kiwis and about this Test. They’re busting to be involved.
“It’s also hugely exciting on a personal level to not only be involved in coaching again but to have the privilege of doing so with New Zealand.”
Maguire resumes his coaching career after winning grand finals with South Sydney and Wigan as well as guiding Wigan to Challenge Cup success.
As well as the seven potential debutants, Maguire will have a core of experience in hooker Issac Luke (Vodafone Warriors), front rowers Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters) and Martin Taupau (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles) plus centre Peta Hiku (Vodafone Warriors).
“This is our first opportunity to create an expectation towards taking the Kiwi jersey back to the top of international rugby league,” said Maguire.
Of the newcomers, the most experienced is Ah Mau (27), who started his 168-game NRL career with the Vodafone Warriors in 2009. He has tasted international football with 16 Tests for Toa Samoa including last year’s Rugby League World Cup. Maumalo, Ese’ese and Faitala-Mariner have also played at Test level for Samoa while Marsters has represented Cook Islands.
The Kiwis have assembled in Sydney before flying out for Denver tomorrow morning.
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS | DENVER TEST
LEESON AH MAU (St George Illawarra Dragons) debutant
NELSON ASOFA-SOLOMONA (Melbourne Storm) #804, 4 Tests
HERMAN ESE’ESE (Newcastle Knights) debutant
RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs) debutant
JAMES FISHER-HARRIS (Penrith Panthers) #801, 1 Test
SLADE GRIFFIN (Newcastle Knights) debutant
PETA HIKU (Vodafone Warriors) #781, 10 Tests
JAMAYNE ISAAKO (Brisbane Broncos) debutant
JORDAN KAHU (Brisbane Broncos) #788, 9 Tests
ISAAC LIU (Sydney Roosters) #805, 3 Tests
ISSAC LUKE (Vodafone Warriors) #749, 42 Tests
TE MAIRE MARTIN (North Queensland Cowboys) #802, 3 Tests
ESAN MARSTERS (Wests Tigers) debutant
KEN MAUMALO (Vodafone Warriors) debutant
KODI NIKORIMA (Brisbane Broncos) #790, 8 Tests
JOSEPH TAPINE (Canberra Raiders) #800, 7 Tests
MARTIN TAUPAU (Manly Warringah Sea Eagles) #785, 20 Tests
JARED WAEREA-HARGREAVES (Sydney Roosters) #755, 23 Tests
DALLIN WATENE-ZELEZNIAK (Penrith Panthers) #794, 6 Tests