Young players markedly outnumbered those with NRL experience in the opening week of the Vodafone Warriors’ preseason campaign.
On day one prop Bunty Afoa, coming back from knee surgery, and train-and-trial half Jayden Nikorima were the only NRL players on hand with wingers Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu’a joining them before the week was out.
Around them have been plenty of exciting prospects, most of whom have emerged from the Vodafone Warriors’ development system.
“There’s some terrific talent coming through and having the chance to train with the NRL squad,” said Vodafone Warriors recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan.
“A lot of them have a big future in the game and they’ll benefit hugely from this exposure. It’s invaluable for their development.”
Among the group are middle forward Jyris Glamuzina, hooker Temple Kalepo, winger Edward Kosi and back rower Isaiah Vagana, who have all come through the club’s system playing at Jersey Flegg Cup under-20 level as well as having a brief taste of Canterbury Cup football.
Another player in the group is Preston Riki, the Sonny Fai Medal winner as the Vodafone Warriors’ 2018 Jersey Flegg player of the year.
Joining those five players are strapping outside backs Viliami Vailea (18) and Jeremiah Asi (17) who both made a huge impact in the Vodafone Warriors’ truncated S G Ball Cup under-18 campaign early this season. Both have excelled in Auckland’s First XV rugby union competition, Asi with St Peter’s College and Vailea with Aorere College. In his five S G Ball games this year, Asi scored three tries while Vailea had two in three games.
Also involved are other S G Ball products in 18-year-old middle forwards Leyton Finau and twins Vailingi and Otukinekina Kepu plus outstanding hooker Taniela Otukolo. Otukolo was among the competition’s best players before the season was stopped short, scoring a staggering nine tries in six games.
Two other players rated as ones to watch are Francis Manuleleua and Zyon Maiu’u. Both have combined rugby league with First XV rugby union, Manuleleua impressing as a big, athletic and skilful first five-eighth with the King's College First XV and powerful back rower Maiu’u with Kelston Boys’ High School.