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Rugby league’s One New Zealand Warriors-fuelled rise in popularity has ignited an unprecedented influx of young rugby union players chasing NRL dreams by signing with the club.

With the advent of a full stable of pathways teams including under-17 and under-19 squads, the Warriors have become a hugely appealing proposition for a host of union players from schools throughout New Zealand.

Among them are schools regarded as rugby union bastions which have a history of openly refusing to cater for rugby league and, in some instances, banning their pupils from playing the 13-man code.

Throughout their 30 seasons in existence, the One New Zealand Warriors have signed players with extensive if not exclusive rugby union backgrounds.

Former All Blacks John Kirwan, Frano Botica, Marc Ellis, Mark Carter, Matthew Ridge and Mark Robinson all played for the club in earlier years while later the likes of Konrad Hurrell, Omar Slaimankhel, Ngani Laumape, Solomone Kata, Albert Vete, Hayze Perham and Eliesa Katoa were schoolboy rugby union stars signed by the Warriors.

Lining up in tomorrow’s ninth-round NRL clash against the Newcastle Knights are more two recent examples of players signed from a schoolboy rugby union background in centre Rocco Berry (St Patrick’s College Silverstream) and interchange middle forward Tom Ale (Rotorua Boys’ High School).

But it’s in the pathways area now where it’s clear more and more rugby union products are coming into the Warriors’ development system and having an impact.

The One New Zealand Warriors created history a week ago when their Harold Matthews Cup team, playing in the under-17 competition for the first time, came from nowhere to win the grand final. In successive sudden death play offs they knocked over three heavily-favoured opponents in Parramatta (30-20), Canterbury Bankstown (12-10) and Western Suburbs (34-16) to claim the crown.

In building the squad from nothing, players were brought together from the club’s academy and through new signings, which is where rugby union came in.

Of the players in the grand final squad, five came from rugby union backgrounds attending schools with little or no rugby league association.

Fullback Joseph Ratcliffe is from the traditional rugby union stronghold of Palmerston North Boys’ High School, winger Kairus Booth from South Otago High School in the small rural town of Balcutha (population: 4340) and second rower Militoni Sikuvea from Auckland’s St Peter’s College, another rugby union-only school. On the bench was utility Boston Krone from the union-driven Auckland Grammar School while on the extended bench was centre Siale Pahulu from Saint Kentigern College, a private school with a union heritage.

The number of rugby union players signed in the SG Ball Cup (under-19) and Jersey Flegg Cup (under-21) squads is even more significant with 11 on the SG Ball roster and 10 in the Jersey Flegg squad. That makes it a total of 26 rugby union signings across the three pathways grades.

Among the schools Jersey Flegg and SG Ball players come from are St Patrick’s College Silverstream, Rotorua Boys’ High School, Hamilton Boys' High School, Sacred Heart College, St Peter’s College and De La Salle College.


Harold Matthews Cup (under-17)
Kairus Booth (South Otago High School, Balclutha)
Boston Krone (Auckland Grammar School, Auckland)
Siale Pahulu (Saint Kentigern College, Auckland)
Joseph Ratcliffe (Palmerston North Boys’ High School, Palmerston North)
Militoni Sikuvea (St Peter’s College, Auckland)
SG Ball Cup (under-19)
Malakai Cama (Rotorua Boys’ High School, Rotorua)
Alvin Chong-Nee (Sacred Heart College, Auckland)
Malakai Filipo (St Paul’s College, Auckland)
Mikaele Ilaiu (Rotorua Boys’ High School, Rotorua)
Andrew Nansen (St Peter’s College, Auckland)
Motu Pasikala (Liston College, Auckland)
Elijah Solomona (James Cook High School, Auckland)
Waka Tate (St Paul’s College, Auckland)
Nganatatafu Vake (Rotorua Boys’ High School, Rotorua)
Hiraka Waitai-Haenga (Hamilton Boys’ High School, Hamilton)
Maui Winitana-Patelesio (St Patrick’s College Silverstream, Upper Hutt)
Jersey Flegg Cup (under-21)
Tobias Crosby (St Patrick’s College Silverstream, Upper Hutt)
Siale Faemani (St Peter’s College, Auckland)
Etuate Fukofuka (St Peter’s College, Auckland)
Nehemiah Gordon-Amoroa (Rosmini College, Auckland)
Eddie Ieremia (De La Salle College, Auckland)
Phranklyn Mano Le Mamea (De La Salle College, Auckland)
Patrick Moimoi (De La Salle College, Auckland)
Ieti Samuelu (De La Salle College, Auckland)
Presley Seumanu-Tigafua (St Peter’s College, Auckland)
Garry Tuilekutu (Naenae College, Wellington)
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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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