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Touch of New Zealand in State of Origin squads

It’s supposed to be all about state against state but Origin has long since moved away from being the preserve of Australian players.

Well before the eligibility rules were relaxed to the extent they have been now there was still scope for a small collection of New Zealand-born players to represent Queensland and New South Wales.

Now the number of players with New Zealand links has gone to a new level.

Out of the initial expanded squads named for tonight’s 2022 Origin series opener in Sydney, five players have New Zealand as their birthplace, two have lived in New Zealand at some stage and four have New Zealand heritage through both parents or one parent.

Here’s the breakdown of both squads:


  • Fullback Kalyn Ponga | Born in Perth, New Zealand parents, lived in Palmerston for five years, played for Māori All Stars 2019 and 2020.
  • Centre Valentine Holmes | Born in Townsville. Father is New Zealand-born Māori, mother Cook Islander.
  • Centre Dane Gagai | Born in Mackay, mother is New Zealand-born Māori, played for Māori All Stars 2019.
  • Prop Josh Papalii | Born in Auckland, moved to Australia at the age of five.
  • Second rower Felise Kaufusi | Born in Auckland, moved to Australia at the age of seven.
  • Interchange forward Jeremiah Nanai | Born in Auckland, raised in Cairns.
  • Squad member Murray Taulagi | Born in Auckland, played rugby union for Otahuhu, moved to Brisbane in 2011.


  • Five-eighth Jarome Luai | Born in Sydney, New Zealand-born parents (Samoan and Māori), captained Junior Kiwis 2017, played for Māori All Stars 2021.
  • Halfback Nathan Cleary | Born in Sydney, lived in Auckland 1999 to 2002 and 2004 to 2011, a total 10 years; educated at Sacred Heart College, played rugby league as a junior at Mount Albert.
  • Prop Junior Paulo | Born in Auckland, raised in Sydney.
  • Interchange back Stephen Crichton | Born in Apia, moved to New Zealand when he was two before his family settled in Australia.
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