RED AND BLACK REPORT 2023: EDITION NO.1
The Red and Black Report returns, shining a spotlight on Canterbury Rugby League products featuring in Australia’s elite and lower-grade competitions.
Aranui Eagles junior Jamayne Isaako has been at the forefront of new NRL club the Dolphins’ spectacular 3-0 start to their debut season. The dynamic winger scored two tries in the Dolphins’ Round 1 boilover victory against Sydney Roosters and bagged a late double in their defeat of Newcastle Knights in Round 3. He’s also slotted 12 goals from 16 attempts to lead the NRL’s pointscoring and tryscoring charts.
— NRL (@NRL) March 6, 2023
Isaako was Dally M Rookie of the Year and made the first of five Test appearances for the Kiwis in 2018 from Brisbane Broncos under the coaching of current Dolphins mentor Wayne Bennett. The 26-year-old joined Gold Coast Titans midway through 2022 before accepting an offer from Bennett to become a foundation Dolphin. He’ll be on the flank for Friday night’s derby blockbuster against the Broncos to make his 92nd NRL appearance, looking to add to his tally of 31 tries and 614 points.
Jordan Riki came through Hornby Panthers’ ranks before venturing to Brisbane and impressing in the Hastings Deering Colts under-20s and Queensland Cup competitions for Norths Devils, as well as captaining Junior Kiwis against Australian Schoolboys in 2019. He has since become an integral member of the Broncos’ back-row since his late-2020 NRL debut, starting all three games this season for the high-flying club – averaging 32 tackles and 83 metres – to take his career appearances tally to 48. The 23-year-old made his third appearance for Māori All Stars in February, scoring a try in the 28-24 loss to Indigenous All Stars in Rotorua.
Hornby Panthers product Fa’amanu Brown returned to Canterbury Bulldogs over the summer after reinvigorating his NRL career with six tries in 13 games for Wests Tigers in 2022. Brown began his NRL career as a five-eighth and played 24 games for Cronulla from 2014-17 and 12 matches for Canterbury in 2018-19. Better known as a utility forward these days, Brown started at lock in the Bulldogs’ Round 1 loss to Manly and came off the bench in back-to-back wins over Melbourne and Wests Tigers.
Burnham Chevaliers junior Jazz Tevaga made an outstanding return to NRL action in the Warriors’ stunning 26-12 upset of North Queensland on Saturday. The lionhearted forward battled injury through the pre-season and only had half a game in NSW Cup under his belt before he was called up to the first-grade bench late last week. In a vintage 44-minute performance, Tevaga scored a try, chewed off 140 metres from 13 runs and made 32 tackles.
— NRL (@NRL) March 18, 2023
Another Chevaliers junior, Kodi Nikorima, made his 161st NRL appearance in the Dolphins Round 3 encounter with Newcastle. Nikorima was called up at hooker following Kiwis World Cup star Jeremy Marshall-King’s two-game suspension, barging over for a first-half try in the Wayne Bennett-coached Dolphins’ 36-20 victory. The 28-year-old made his NRL debut for Brisbane in 2015 under Bennett and signed with the fledgling Dolphins after a stint at South Sydney following a mid-2022 switch from the Warriors.
Match Highlights 🎥 – #NRLKnightsDolphins
Five tries between wingers Tesi Niu and Jamayne Isaako lifted the Dolphins to a 36-20 victory over the Knights, which saw them become just the third expansion team to win their opening three games. pic.twitter.com/VwVEUsCy3V
— NRL (@NRL) March 17, 2023
Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed former CRL Development Officer Nick Le Comte getting some screen time as an on-field trainer during Saturday’s Titans-Storm NRL clash in sweltering Gold Coast conditions. Le Comte is Melbourne’s Assistant Speed and Conditioning Coach, and the club’s Pathways High Performance Manager. He made a fleeting visit home for the Storm’s pre-season trial against the Warriors in Christchurch.
Aranui Eagles product Daejarn Asi made his first appearance for Parramatta Eels’ NSW Cup team last weekend after recovering from an off-season injury, scoring a try from centre in a 30-22 win over Blacktown. Asi played 10 NRL games for North Queensland Cowboys in 2020-21 before linking with the Warriors midway through last season, playing a further eight premiership matches. The 22-year-old was snapped up by the Eels and will face defending NSW Cup champs Penrith on Thursday as he continues to press for a top-grade call-up.
Halswell Hornets junior Joseph Taipari, who came through the SG Ball and Jersey Flegg grades with Parramatta before making his NSW Cup debut for Wentworthville in 2019, spent the 2021-22 seasons with Western Suburbs Magpies, playing 21 games. The five-eighth joined Sydney Roosters in the off-season and has played all three NSW Cup games and scored a try in each. Last weekend, he also produced a try assist as the Roosters carved out their first win of the season, 38-16 over Souths.
Former Canterbury age-group and Papanui player Tahi Baggaley played three matches during the Warriors’ last pre-COVID NSW Cup campaign in 2019. He starred for Howick Hornets at Fox Memorial Cup level last year and was drafted in for the Warriors’ return to the second-tier competition. Baggaley has played all three matches so far this season, coming off the bench with season-high tallies for tackles (31) and running metres (83) in their loss to North Sydney. He’s been named to start at prop against Canterbury this Saturday.
Northern Bulldogs product Sheldon Pitama played 36 NYC games for Melbourne Storm and the Warriors before joining Redcliffe Dolphins, where he has become a permanent fixture at hooker and a valued clubman. The 26-year-old scored five tries in a career-high 22 Queensland Cup games last season. Pitama’s appearance in last weekend’s 30-all draw with Norths Devils was his 74th for the Dolphins.
Pitama represented the Māori All Stars against Indigenous All Stars in Rotorua in February, coming off the bench in the 28-24 loss that featured dozens of big-name NRL players.
Kodi Nikorima started his season at fullback for Central Queensland Capras – scoring a try, making two line-breaks and producing two try assists in a 23-22 Round 1 win over Tweed Heads – before receiving the NRL call-up from the Dolphins.
An ex-Halswell Hornet is making his mark at Canterbury Bulldogs in Jersey Flegg, the NSWRL’s under-21s competition.
Montel Lisala has featured on the wing as the Bulldogs have racked up three big wins in their three matches so far, scoring his first try for the club in a 38-6 thrashing of Wests Tigers last weekend. The Bulldogs have the bye in Round 4.
The 2023 SG Ball Cup – the NSWRL-run under-19s competition – has featured a stack of players from the Canterbury Rugby League junior ranks.
Halswell junior Tanner Stowers-Smith, the great-grandson of Canterbury legend and former New Zealand Test captain Pat Smith, has been a front-row mainstay and captain of the Warriors’ SG Ball team.
Stowers-Smith has been joined in the Warriors line-up this season by Makaia Tafua, a hooker from Linwood Keas. The Warriors are 10th on the ladder with a 3-3 record, winning their first three games. Stowers-Smith will lead the side and Tafua will come off the bench in Saturday’s clash with the Bulldogs as the Warriors strive to get back in the winner’s circle.
Oliver Lawry, a talented five-eighth who played alongside Stowers-Smith with the Hornets and in the South Island Scorpions 18s, signed with Wests Tigers and played in the early SG Ball rounds for Balmain before being sidelined by injury.
After playing for Wynnum Manly’s Mal Meninga Cup team last year, Hornby Panthers’ Felix Fa’atili has been a regular at prop in Cronulla’s SG Ball team. He was a tryscorer in last weekend’s 30-22 loss in Canberra.
Melbourne Storm have three Canterbury juniors in their SG Ball ranks. Linwood centre Matthew Logopati, Hornby lock Josiah-Ekkehard Neli, the captain of the side, and Riccarton prop K-Ci Newton Whare – whose father, Vince Whare, was a stalwart for Riccarton and Canterbury – have been regulars for the Storm in 2023.
HAROLD MATTHEWS CUP
Canterbury Bulldogs’ team in the Harold Matthews Cup – the NSWRL’s under-17s competition – includes a pair of young guns from CRL’s juniors.
Northern Bulldogs five-eighth Bronson Reuben and Hornby Panthers Sosaia Alatini have helped the Bulldogs to top spot on the Harold Matthews Cup ladder after seven rounds. Reuben’s performances recently earned him a two-year contract extension at the club.
TARSHA GALE CUP
Former Canterbury Rugby League Development Officer Kylie O’Loughlin, who coached Linwood Keas’ women’s team to its epic 2018 grand final victory, has been living in Sydney for the past three years. She is in her third season as assistant coach for Cronulla Sharks’ Tarsha Gale Cup team, who are eighth on the ladder with two wins and a draw from six games so far. The Tarsha Gale Cup is the NSWRL-run women’s under-19s competition.
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