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Kalani going all the way to NRL debut against Dolphins

Newest One New Zealand Warriors NRL players Kalani Going and Paul Roache epitomise tenacity and perseverance in a way few others do.

And today they both have their reward as they eye their first-grade debuts off the bench in the Warriors’ last regular season match against the Dolphins before heading into their first finals campaign since 2018.

For any player the dream is to make it into the NRL. For many it comes relatively quickly, for others not at all and for others the long way around.

Going and Roache are in the latter bracket; indeed they might have wondered whether the dream would ever come true, only they didn’t give up on it.

Roache had it in front of him when he joined the Canberra Raiders but it didn't work out as he sought a release to return home on compassionate grounds.

Going was also in the Canberra system but he too eventually headed home and, like Roache, went back to rugby union.

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But then came an opportunity, no promises and no contracts for either of them as the One New Zealand Warriors hit the reset button following their three years exiled in Australia.

After being shelved when the Covid pandemic hit in March 2020, the New South Wales Cup team was back on the agenda.

The Warriors had to start all over again, finding players from the local scene to build a squad to back up the others on NRL contracts.

So, Going and Roache were offered the chance of starting the preseason in November with nothing solid, just train and see where it takes you. It eventually took them to deals to play in the New South Wales Cup – and, as of today, the ultimate reward of becoming bona fide NRL players.

Going (26) has definitely taken the long journey. A very long one.

His grandfather is Brian Going, he of the legendary Northland rugby union trio alongside his brothers Sid (Super Sid as he was called) and Ken. They had a telepathic understanding on the field best evidenced by a triple scissors play they perfected which completely bamboozled defences. Going, Going, gone it was termed.

From such a background Kalani was bound to head down the rugby union path and he did but the Whangarei-born boy also had the opportunity to play rugby league.

Scouted and signed by Canberra – later having Roache as a clubmate (briefly) – Going played at SG Ball Cup (under-18) level for the Raiders in 2014 and 2015, under-20s in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and New South Wales Cup for feeder side the Mounties in 2018.

He couldn’t break through so he headed to the Queensland Cup playing for Tweed Seagulls in 2018 and 2019. Still no joy so back home he went to Northland where he returned to union making the province’s NPC side.

There was still a yearning for rugby league, though. He enjoyed the game and wanted to have another crack at it. Unfinished business. Now it's right in front of him.

Going has had an exceptional season for the One New Zealand Warriors’ New South Wales Cup side. Picked as captain by coach Slade Griffin, he played in all but two of the side’s regular season matches helping them to third on the ladder; he scored nine tries, averaged 117 metres and 30 tackles a game and made 74 tackles breaks. He plays with rare intensity and energy.

Going has been on the fringes of the NRL side, close to making the breakthrough in the middle of the season. Now it has come.

Going, Going - Let’s Gone.

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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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