Kiwis name six NRL grand finalists for World Cup

Published by IntRL
02 Oct 2022

Back-to-back NRL premiership winners James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota and Scott Sorensen are among six grand finalists named in the Kiwis’ World Cup squad.

The trio have been confirmed after making impressive contributions in Penrith’s 28-12 victory over the Parramatta Eels in last night’s 2022 NRL decider at Accor Stadium in Sydney.

The Penrith players are joined by Dylan Brown, Isaiah Papali’i and Marata Niukore from the beaten Eels side.

All six players were in the Kiwis’ extended squad which went into camp for the June Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga, in which Brown, Niukore and Leota made their New Zealand Test debuts.

Photo: Moses Leota is one of three Panthers in the Kiwis squad (NRL Photos)

“Selecting the squad for the World Cup was a real challenge given the quality of players in contention,” said Kiwis head coach Michael Maguire.

“There were some tough calls to make but we’re excited about the group we’ve settled on.

“These players have all been impressive for their clubs this season, not least James (Fisher-Harris), Moses (Leota) and Scott (Sorensen) who were all outstanding for Penrith in the grand final.”

Another feature of the selection is the return of seasoned middle forwards Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Isaac Liu plus fullback-centre Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad.

Waerea-Hargreaves and 2019 Kiwi Nicoll-Klokstad were unavailable for the Tonga Test due to injury while Liu, after being originally selected, remained in Australia to be with his wife for the birth of the couple’s second child.

The only new face in the squad is centre Sebastian Kris (23), who has scored 25 tries in his 44 NRL appearances for Canberra. Born in Brisbane, he is of New Zealand descent through his Huntly-raised mother.

Another player making a return is Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs hooker Jeremy Marshall-King. Uncapped at Test level, he was in the Kiwi squad for the World Nines in 2019.

The Kiwis, minus the six grand final players, assembled and trained in Sydney this week before the advance party of 18 players plus staff flew to England on Friday.

Photo: Joey Manu celebrates the mid-season Test win against Tonga (NRL Photos)

They’re based in Leeds this week for a warm-up match against the beaten Super League grand finalists the Rhinos at Headingley on Saturday night.

Three players are joining the Kiwis for the match which will serve as a farewell for Thomas Leuluai, who is ending his remarkable 20-season career after making his NRL debut as a 17-year-old with the Warriors in 2003.

The 37-year-old will lead the Kiwis in his last game before beginning a coaching career with Wigan.

Catalans centre Dean Whare, a 19-Test Kiwi from 2012-2017, and Wigan back rower Willie Isa are also joining the Kiwis for the match against Leeds.

The six players involved in the NRL grand final are due to arrive in Leeds next Saturday but won’t be involved in the match against the Rhinos.

The Kiwis then move to their World Cup base in York. Their opening Pool C match is against Lebanon in Warrington on October 16 followed by Jamaica in Hull on October 22 and Ireland in Leeds on October 28.

The quarter-finals are scheduled for November 4,5 and 6, the semifinals on November 11 and 12 and the final at Old Trafford in Manchester on November 19.

New Zealand Kiwis

JESSE BROMWICH Melbourne Storm
DYLAN BROWN Parramatta Eels
KIERAN FORAN Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
PETA HIKU North Queensland Cowboys
JAHROME HUGHES Melbourne Storm
SEBASTIAN KRIS Canberra Raiders
MOSES LEOTA Penrith Panthers
ISAAC LIU Gold Coast Titans
JOSEPH MANU Sydney Roosters
JEREMY MARSHALL-KING Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
RONALDO MULITALO Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
BRITON NIKORA Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
MARATA NIUKORE Parramatta Eels
ISAIAH PAPALI’I Parramatta Eels
JORDAN RAPANA Canberra Raiders
BRANDON SMITH Melbourne Storm
SCOTT SORENSEN Penrith Panthers
JOSEPH TAPINE Canberra Raiders