Centre Rocco Berry is the most experienced of seven One New Zealand Warriors players named in the New Zealand Kiwis A squad to face Mate Ma’a Tonga A in the Labour Weekend triple-header at Eden Park on Saturday, October 21.
The 22-year-old 31-game Berry is joined by four of the club’s 2023 NRL rookies and two who are yet to make a first-grade appearance.
Fullback Taine Tuaupiki (24) finished his debut season with five NRL games after making his debut against North Queensland in round three while centre Ali Leiataua (20), second rower Kalani Going (26) and hooker Paul Roache (24) didn’t add to their maiden games in the NRL.
The other two One New Zealand Warriors included is second rower Jacob Laban (19), who was 18th man for the final regular season match against the Dolphins but didn’t make it onto the field, and SG Ball Cup captain Tanner Stowers-Smith.
While Berry had a break-out season appearing in 16 games, the other five players all impressed for the club’s New South Wales Cup side which went within a win of reaching the competition’s grand final.
Going was named the One New Zealand Warriors’ NSW Cup player of the year while Tuaupiki won the NRL Rookie of the Year award. Going and Leiataua were both named in the New South Wales Cup Team of the Year.
In all eight NRL rookies and three teenagers yet to play a first-grade match were included among more established NRL players in a group of 16 players named in the Kiwis A squad.
They will go into camp with the 21-man New Zealand Kiwis squad announced last week for the Pacific Championships encounter with beaten 2022 Rugby League World Cup finalists Toa Samoa.
Three of the 21 players in the Kiwi squad will be added to the New Zealand A line-up next week.
Apart from Tuaupiki, Leiataua, Going and Roache the other rookies are Storm second rowers Joe Chan (21) and Jack Howarth (20), Raiders middle forward Trey Mooney (21) and Storm winger William Warbrick (25).
As well as Laban and Stowers-Smith, the other player yet to make his NRL debut is Broncos front rower Benjamin Te Kura (18); he filled the 18th man role for the final round of the 2023 regular season but wasn't used.
The squad’s most experienced player is Eels centre Bailey Simonsson (25), who played the first of his 85 NRL matches for Canberra in 2019, the year he represented the Kiwis at the World Nines in Sydney.
Prop Pasami Saulo (25) has made 49 appearances for the Knights and the Raiders while centre Asu Kepaoa (23) has played 40 times for Wests Tigers.
Also included is Roosters and Māori All Stars utility Zach Dockar-Clay (28), who played 14 times in his NRL debut season for the Bulldogs in 2022.
“It’s really exciting for New Zealand Rugby League being able to bring so many players together at the same time,” said New Zealand Kiwis head coach Michael Maguire.
“The players brought into the New Zealand A squad will all have the opportunity to be in camp with the Kiwis, to train alongside them and to show their potential as future Kiwi internationals.
“It’s really important for us to have an opportunity like this, not just for players striving to become Kiwis but also for coaches.”
Coached by former Kiwi captain Nathan Cayless, the New Zealand Kiwis A team faces Mate Ma’a Tonga A in the first game of the Labour Weekend triple-header (1.30pm kick-off) at Eden Park followed by the Kiwis Ferns taking on Mate Ma’a Tonga (3.45pm kick-off) and the New Zealand Kiwis against in their Pacific Championships encounter (6.00pm).
NEW ZEALAND KIWIS A
|ROCCO BERRY (One New Zealand Warriors)
JOE CHAN (Melbourne Storm)
ZACH DOCKAR-CLAY (Sydney Roosters)
KALANI GOING (One New Zealand Warriors)
JACK HOWARTH (Melbourne Storm)
ASU KEPAOA (Wests Tigers)
JACOB LABAN (One New Zealand Warriors)
ALI LEIATAUA (One New Zealand Warriors)
TREY MOONEY (Canberra Raiders)
PAUL ROACHE (One New Zealand Warriors)
PASAMI SAULO (Canberra Raiders)
BAILEY SIMONSSON (Parramatta Eels)
TANNER STOWERS-SMITH (One New Zealand Warriors)
TAINE TUAUPIKI (One New Zealand Warriors)
BENJAMIN TE KURA (Brisbane Broncos)
WILLIAM WARBRICK (Melbourne Storm)