The Auckland Rugby League has today named a 25-strong premier squad in preparation for the June 2 Upright Access Mann Cup clash with the Tonga New Zealand Residents.
Among the players named by coach Grant Pocklington is 2016 National Youth Competition winner Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck, younger brother of Vodafone Warriors captain Roger, who this year has balanced playing time between the Warriors’ reserves and SAS Fox Memorial Premiership side the Richmond Bulldogs.
Five members of Glenora’s Grand Final-winning team from last year have made the cut, while 2017 runners-up Pt Chevalier – who are undefeated to date this season – have five players in line to take the field at Mount Smart Stadium.
Pocklington said it was a major benefit that the majority of his squad boasted time spent in NRL systems.
“About 80 per cent of the boys in this squad have come through the Intrust Super Premiership (NRL reserve grade) level, so they come with those fitness levels, the understanding around training,” Pocklington said.
“We’ve picked a mix of experienced guys and some younger ones who get a chance to show what they have got at this level.
“Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck was really pleased to come in as a leader. He comes from an environment at the Sydney Roosters where he’s had to know when it’s time to laugh and when it’s time to step it up, while the likes of Jamel Hunt and Zac Tippins know exactly what to do at this level.
“That local Auckland experience will be important.”
Mt Albert Lions duo Reece Joyce and Roydon Gillett – who both made the final 28 of The NRL Rookie TV show in 2016 – join reigning Auckland Rugby League Player of the Year Taylor Daniels and one-time Sydney Roosters product Abraham Papalii in the group.
In total, nine Auckland clubs are represented in the squad, with powerhouse forward Moses Oge the sole representative from the second division competition.
Auckland squad: Tevin Arona (Pt Chevalier), Kurt Bernard (Glenora), Reece Charlie (Howick), Taylor Daniels (Northcote), Geronimo Doyle (Otahuhu), Jethro Friend (Howick), Roydon Gillett (Mt Albert), Jamel Hunt (Papakura), Phoenix Hunt (Papakura), Aziah Ikitule-Filipo (Howick), Reece Joyce (Mt Albert), Michael Ki (Pt Chevalier), Moses Oge (Bay Roskill), Abraham Papalii (Pt Chevalier), Daniel Reuelu-Buchanan (Glenora), Polima Siaki (Glenora), Chris Sio (Pt Chevalier), Matiu Stone-Dunn (Richmond), Zac Tippins (Glenora), Jordan Tuarae (Glenora), Matti Tuitama (Pt Chevalier), Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck (Richmond), Siave Tupou (Richmond), Johnny Vuetibau (Howick), Cole Waaka (Northcote).