Red and Black Report: 2018 Season Preview

Red and Black Report: 2018 Season Preview

Each week the Red and Black Report will keep you up to date with how our Canterbury Rugby League products are performing in Australia’s elite and lower-grade competitions.

Ahead of Round 1 of the National Rugby League, InTrust Super Premiership (NSW Cup), InTrust Super Cup (Qld Cup), Jersey Flegg (NSW Under-20s) and Hastings Deering Cup (Qld Under-20s) competitions this weekend, here’s a rundown of where the ex-Canterbury juniors are playing in 2018, and who will be lining up for their club’s season-opening clashes.

The most accomplished of the Australia-based Cantabrians, Manly utility Lewis Brown will don the familiar No.14 jumper this weekend as cover for hooker, back-row and centre. The former Warriors and Penrith star, who cut his teeth with Riccarton Knights, has played NRL games – including 46 for the Sea Eagles in two seasons at the club – and 15 Tests for New Zealand.

Brown, who is on track to play in his hometown when Manly bring their Round 14 clash against the Warriors to Christchurch, needs just four appearances to join Jeremy Smith and David Kidwell as the only Canterbury products to play 200 games in the Australian premiership.

Kodi Nikorima, who was born in Palmerston North but first pulled on a boot for Burnham Chevaliers as a youngster, is expected to wear the Brisbane Broncos’ No.7 jumper throughout 2018 following Ben Hunt’s move to St George Illawarra.

The livewire utility has played 55 NRL games for the Broncos – including a grand final loss during his 2015 rookie season – and eight Tests for New Zealand.

Nikorima will be joined in the Broncos’ starting line-up on Thursday night by Aranui Eagles junior Jamayne Isaako, who was named on the wing after playing one game at fullback in 2017.

Isaako was a pointscoring machine for ISC team Souths Logan Magpies last year, but should see a fair bit of first grade in 2018.

Christchurch-born livewire Pita Godinet, who started his rugby league journey at Sydenham, made two NRL appearances for Manly in 2016, adding to 18 appearances in the top flight for the Warriors (2011-13) and 38 games for Wakefield (2014-15).

But after playing exclusively for ISP outfit Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles last year – most at fullback and in the halves – the 30-year-old Samoa international was snapped up by Wests Tigers for 2018 and has usurped Halswell Hornets junior Matt McIlwrick for the Tigers’ No.9 jumper for Round 1.

The reliable McIlwrick played all but one of the Tigers’ 24 games last year – after taking five seasons to rack up 29 appearances for Canberra, Sydney Roosters and Cronulla. The 26-year-old has been named in a Western Suburbs ISP team featuring plenty of big names, with Tigers coach Ivan Cleary making plenty of tough calls ahead of the season opener. McIlwrick could come onto the Tigers’ bench if Benji Marshall is unable to overcome an injury niggle, however.

Likewise, Hornby Panthers junior Fa’amanu Brown has been unable to force his way into his new club Canterbury Bulldogs’ 17. Matt Frawley has been picked to partner Kieran Foran in the halves and Jeremy Marshall-King – Benji’s younger brother – was chosen as incoming coach Dean Pay’s bench utility. Brown, who has played 24 NRL games in four seasons at Cronulla, will line up at hooker for the Bulldogs’ ISP team.

Burnham Chevaliers junior Jazz Tevaga, a veteran of 15 NRL games for the Warriors after debuting in early-2016, has travelled to Perth for the Round 1 clash with South Sydney but was not name in the top 17. The Christchurch-born 22-year-old, who represented Samoa last year, provides valuable depth at hooker and back-row.

Meanwhile, former Hornby Panthers and Rockcote Canterbury Bulls halfback gun Tevin Arona will start 2018 as the Warriors’ ISP halfback. The 22-year-old, who has also had a stint in the Canberra Raiders’ lower grades, started promisingly with the Warriors’ second-tier team after securing a contract last year, but a broken leg sidelined him for several months.

Another 2016 Rockcote Canterbury Bulls rep, ex-Papanui Tigers flyer Nathan Saumalu is lining up for his second season at InTrust Super Cup club Mackay Cutters. He has been named at centre for their Round 1 clash against Townsville Blackhawks.

The Rockhampton-based Central Queensland Capras have a pair of Canterbury products in Ken Tofilau and Phil Nati. After a couple of seasons plugging away for the Newcastle Knights’ NYC and NSW Cup sides, Halswell junior Tofilau – Rockcote Canterbury Bulls rep as a teenager – made the move north and was a prolific tryscorer for the Capras in 2017. He’s on the wing this Saturday against Easts Tigers.

The Rockcote Canterbury Bulls’ Most Outstanding Player award winner in 2016 and a NZ Residents rep, ex-Celebration Lions back-rower Nati – another Hornets junior – has snared a starting front-row berth for the encounter against the Tigers after being in and out of the Capras’ first-choice line-up in 2017.

Ex-Northern Bulldogs hooker Sheldon Pitama joined the Redcliffe Dolphins on the back of strong campaign captaining the Warriors’ Under-20s team in 2016. An intermittent member of the Dolphins’ top squad in 2017, Pitama has been named on the bench for Round 1.

There’s plenty of young Canterbury juniors in the NSW-based Jersey Flegg Cup and Queensland’s Hastings Deering Cup competitions, which have replaced the NYC Under-20s premiership.

Hornby and St Thomas’ of Canterbury centre Patrick Elia will line up for the Warriors’ Flegg side this weekend at Mount Smart Stadium.

Linwood Keas young Graeme Patu-Vaega’au is also part of the Warriors’ squad but has not been named this weekend, while another St Thomas’ star, promising forward Seth Tauamiti, trained with the Warriors over the summer but is currently on the comeback trail from injury.

Cruz Topai-Aveai, who attracted the interest of league scouts while terrorising opposition sides for Shirley Boys High’s First XV and also played for Celebration Lions, will feature for Cronulla’s Flegg team at prop in their season opener.

Topai-Aveai’s 2017 season with South Sydney’s NYC team was cut short by injury, but the Sharks secured his signature in May and he featured in their NRL trial games earlier this year.

Former Celebration and Papanui player Sua Aiiloilo and ex-Celebration tyro Daniel Sakisi have both been named on the Canterbury Bulldogs’ bench for their Round 1 Flegg clash with Wests Tigers.

Halswell junior Joseph Taipari, a key player in Parramatta’s all-conquering SG Ball team last year, also broke into the Eels’ NYC line-up in 2017 and has been named at five-eighth for their Round 1 assignment against Penrith.

Highly-regarded Hornby Panthers product Jordan Riki will continue his development with the Brisbane Broncos this year. Riki will be looking to force his way the Broncos’ Deering Hastings Cup Under-20s feeder team Norths Devils.

Former Papanui 18s player Jalen Tangiiti-Turner has been named on the wing for Wynnum-Manly Seagulls’ Under-20s side in Round 1.

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