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  1. #1
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    Default Talented junior players not linked to the Titans but maybe should be

    I will preface my comments below in that this young player is in no way even linked to the Titans but I have been lucky enough to see a number of full length videos of his schoolboy matches as well as highlights of some representative matches for the Northern Swords as well as highlights of the match against the Warriors U18 selection and this young player has stood out every time I have been lucky enough to get to see footage of any of his games. I have absolutely no idea of whether he is linked to an Australian club or not, he is definitely not linked to the Warriors though I know that much. If he is not linked to an NRL club, he certainly should be. He looks a real star in the making. The Titans should really be looking at this young player and also front rower Wiremu Greig from the same school.

    Jayden Leaupepe. He is an extremely talented young five eight from the Northlands area of New Zealand and in fact was selected at five eight for the Adam Blair XIII for a match against a Warriors U18 selection last weekend which the Warriors squad won 36-24. He also plays five eight for Whangarei Boys High School (WBHS) who play in the Adam Blair Open Schoolboys competition, which is a competition solely for Northland schools. WBHS has won through to the semi-final stage of the competition where they take on Dargaville High School. From what I can find out he and front rower Wiremu Greig are the team standouts and two of the stand outs for the entire Northlands region.

    In attack, he is a five eight who is a dynamic runner of the football who excels in taking on the defensive line with deft footwork around the ruck, looking to seek out bigger slower forwards when they are caught on the edge of the ruck, he also has a very good dummy which continues to be effective regardless of the frequency of its use as it is indistinguishable in process from when he is going to actually pass the ball. He does not however have blinkers on, and when his backline is set deep, he can see an overlap or a another play developing he will get the ball out quickly and effectively, using his solid passing skills from both sides of his body, where he will put the football out in front of his runners. He is able to impart a good spin on the ball, thus can get good distance on his passes whilst maintaining accuracy from both sides of his body all be it from the videos that I have seen he gets better distance when passing to the left hand side of the field.

    Assisting his play is the fact that he seems to make the decision what to do with the ball quickly thus enabling the ball to get out wide quickly. One aspect that is notable when you see him play is how he directs the team around the field, he is in charge of when and where the forwards run and also when he wants the ball to spread it out wide to his backline.

    He has a prodigious kick on him and seemingly also has good accuracy and presents as a 40/20 threat. Also his prodigious boot generates significant height on his bombs, and I mean they are huge bombs and again are seemingly quite accurate, his ceiling is that of his teamís primary tactical kicker moving forward, both from a field position and attacking perspective. He is also his school teamís primary goal kicker. From the footage and his player statistics, I would suggest that he is likely to be his sideís primary goal kicker regardless of the level he progresses to into the future.

    Defensively he has decent size for a five eight, a facet which assists in him being a very effective defender for his position, in fact he is an asset to his teamís defensive pattern to the extent that he has the strength and technique to more than hold his own one on one against wide running forwards.

    As noted he has already made a representative side this year, being the Adam Blair XIII and it would not surprise if he plays some local first grade once his schoolboy football with WBHS is completed with the Northern Swords in the New Zealand version of the QCup. From a position perspective, in the videoís that I have seen him play, he has only ever played at five eight and the silky skills on display in the videos would certainly suggest that he is more than capable if staying at five eight long term.

    From a player comparison, I would consider Warriors and New Zealand International halfback Shaun Johnson as a player with a similar playing style, maybe Jayden Leaupepe does not have the same prodigious side step, but all other aspects such as the plus plus speed off the mark and plus top end speed seem to be on display when he has the ball in hand, he is just too much for other schools in the area to deal with.

    I know that you should not make judgements on players purely based on videos and selected highlights but he just jumps off the screen in the footage.
    Last edited by mdrew; 31-03-16 at 05:15 PM.

  2. #2
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    Wiremu Greig. He is a big strong young front rower from the Northlands area of New Zealand and was selected in the front row for the Adam Blair XIII for a match against a Warriors U18 selection last weekend which the Warriors squad won 36-24. He also plays in the front row for Whangarei Boys High School (WBHS) who play in the Adam Blair Open Schoolboys competition, which is a competition solely for Northland schools. WBHS has won through to the semi-final stage of the competition where they take on Dargaville High School. He has previously represented the Northern Swords in both the U15 and U17 age groups. Like the previously mentioned player, I am only going off video footage, including full games and also some highlights of schoolboy and Northern Swords representative matches.

    Whilst the schoolboy competition is obviously not as strong as the Super Six or GIO Cup competitions that PBC, Keebra and Coombabah are involved in, the matches are keenly contested and with plenty of very big boys, looking to hit as hard as they possibly can with no thoughts of self-preservation. A number of exceptionally talented young players from the region are starting to make a name for themselves like James Fisher-Harris of the Penrith Panthers and I am sure that there are plenty more just waiting for a chance. You just have to look at the number of young players in our NYC side that have come through the open NYC trial over the last two years, such as Mix King and Brayden McGrady to show that junior talent identification is an inexact science, with plenty of young players just looking for an opportunity.

    As noted he is a big and I mean big strong front rower who is a powerful runner of the football, who knows only one way and that is straight ahead and can offload once he has impacted the defensive line or has crashed through it, in addition he is quite effective when his team is attacking close to the try line. He can either take the ball himself, and when he gets low he is very difficult to stop or he can run as a decoy and attract defenders away from the real axis of attack. For a big front rower he does actually have quite decent speed and footwork, certainly well above average for a player of his size. He does however seem to carry the ball in his right hand away from his body which whilst it can make offloading easier once he engages the defensive line it can lead to a number of dropped balls when opposing defenders engage him.

    In defence he is happy to go for the big hit often, on occasion however as he starts to tire he can leave an arm out and get penalised for a high tackle, a focus on stamina will assist in eliminating this. He is obviously suited to defending in the centre of the ruck rather that the fringes and will understandably have some trouble with nippy runners out of dummy half. His calling card though is the strength and power to effectively engage the opposing forward early in their run and use his natural strength to win the forward battle in the centre of the ruck. He can defensively handle any one on one battle that presents itself. At times in games (from a few matches at least) he really does prevent opposing gaining any ground at all through the centre of the ruck.

    Moving forward to the current season, he has already played a lot of schoolboy football in the Adam Blair shield competition as well as making that competitions representative side in a match against a Warriors side. With junior football ending at the U17 level he will need to make the step up to senior football once his schoolboy commitments have ceased even though he is only 17 years old, a spot however in the Northern Swords senior side would not surprise for their competition. From what I understand he has always played in the front row which is not real surprise based on his skill set and playing style from the footage.

    From a player comparison perspective, maybe some along the lines of Warriors and New Zealand International Ben Matelino would be a good comparison as a no nonsense type of front rower with size, strength and power. He does not necessarily seem to have a great deal of bulk on his frame but he seems to be a powerful athlete.
    Last edited by mdrew; 31-03-16 at 05:16 PM.

  3. #3
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    Have you sent the Titans this info at all? Both sound good.
    #TitansThruNThru #WeAreReady

  4. #4
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    I have had some very brief discussions in relation to suggestions mate and just let them know that I will assist if needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Bayside Titan View Post
    Have you sent the Titans this info at all? Both sound good.

  5. #5
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    Mitipere Tuatai. He is a young front rower originally from North Queensland who has come down to Brisbane to continue his football with Wynnum Manly and he is currently starting in the front row for their MM side. In North Queensland he played for the Tully Tigers. He has already represented Queensland at both the U16 and U18 levels in 2014 and 2015 respectively when he was playing CC and MM with the Northern Pride, a club the Titans know well with Titans linked outside back Lui Lockington coming from before he also headed down to the South East. He has started the first three rounds for Wynnum in the front row and has been selected in the front row again for the upcoming round four clash.

    This young man is just a wrecking ball when running the ball, he is a big strong powerful forward who runs with pace and power both when running in the centre of the ruck as well as a little wider out on the fringes. I know that he is named in the front row in his matches, but he seems to in the main run a little wider out and usually has a slight jink off his right foot prior to the defensive line. He seems to usually line up on the right hand side of the field.

    When the opposition are on the back foot he will target the smaller defenders on the edge of the ruck and burst through and for a big young bloke he has very good speed over the medium term and has the strength to drag defenders with him. I would consider that his speed would be considered above average for a backrower but plays faster as a result of him timing his runs so well that the dummy half can present a flat pass to him and also as a result of the power that he runs at. For Wynnum in the MM so far this year, he is normally the designated kick-off returner and just runs flat out into the defensive line.

    He is also very effective close to the opposition try line with his ability to burst through tackles. If the defenders do not come off the try he will just drag them across the try line, with his continued development of which running lines he can utilise, such as running an inside shoulder line when close to the opposition try line he will become even more effective and will be an asset to the entire team as defences compress to combat his running thus leaving more room our wide. With these attributes he has already scored three tries at the MM level this year and also scored a double for the Tully Tigers in their U17 Grand Final win in the Cairns junior rugby league last season.

    The defensive side of his game is similarly impressive, He does not just charge wildly up looking for a huge hit, but is calculating in where and when to hit. Quite a few of his tackles resulted in the opposing forward being rocked backwards as a result of the impact of the tackle, he just hits so hard. He drives hard with his legs and always uses his shoulder and core body strength to drive into his opponent. Due to his size and strength he is more than capable of combatting opposing forwards one on one and more often than not will win the individual battle against his opponent. When defending wider out on the fringes of the ruck he has plus lateral mobility for such a big strong powerful player and thus is effective when defending against smaller quicker attackers.

    As noted so far this season, he has started in all three of Wynnum Manly’s MM matches and has been selected in the fourth match this weekend. Once the MM competition is completed he will likely play for Wynnum Manly in the U18 Nev Blair competition in Brisbane and I have absolutely no doubt that very shortly he will secure an NYC contract for 2017 and beyond.

    From a position perspective, I know that he has played the majority of his football so far in the front row but with his plus speed and footwork, I can really see him being a very effective second rower at the next level. No doubt he could play in the front row but he is simply devastating on the fringes of the ruck when he isolates a smaller defender and once into open space is quick enough to finish off breaks himself.

    From a player comparison perspective, someone that I think that he has a similar playing style to is North Queensland Cowboy and New Zealand International Jason Taumalolo as a wrecking ball of a forward who can break open and dominate a game on his own. This young man will end up with an NYC contract the only question is who will be lucky enough to get his name on a contract.

  6. #6
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    Chol Chol. He is a young player originally from Sudan who is currently plying his trade for the Ipswich Jets in the QCup Colts competition, where after three rounds he is the equal top scorer in the competition with four. He has started all of the Ipswich Jets matches on the wing and during the pre-season he played a couple of matches for the Jets QCup side including a trial against the Easts Tigers which was played after a Titans v Storm trial at Langland’s Park in Stones Corner. That day even though it was very wet you saw flashes of his athletic ability.

    He has had a bit of a journey to get to where he is. He grew up in the Sudan before his family moved to New Zealand and started playing rugby league for Wesley College as well as some club rugby league for the Mt Wellington Warriors in Auckland. For Wesley College he spent a bit of time at fullback. From there he was selected for the Auckland Warriors U17 representative side and then at the beginning of the 2015 year, he received a rugby league scholarship with Ipswich State High School, where a team mate for their Super Six campaign was current Titans NYC forward, Kelepi Faukafa. In addition, two other players from Ipswich State High trialled for our NYC squad, being Kristian Petty and Raiden Foonoti.

    He played club football in Ipswich for the West End Bulldogs, and had a big year scoring 22 tries across three grades. He scored 18 tries in 12 matches at the U19 Boettcher Realty Colts Cup, three tries in two games in the Whitehead Studios reserve grade and finished the season playing six Major Paul Pisquale A grade matches, scoring a try. In the U19 Colts competition he scored five tries in a match once against Swifts and across two matches scored seven tries against the Fassifern Bombers.

    In short he is an amazing athlete, he is exceptionally quick and strong, throw in exceptional lateral mobility and he really does stand out on the field from an attacking perspective. His speed would have to be considered plus plus, I would think that he would be as quick as anyone playing in the NRL now, he also has a great side step and also runs with power. The “down” side is that he is very raw from rugby league perspective and sometimes struggles with both his hands and his positioning, but when he gets the ball in open space he will not get caught from behind but does need to work on positioning his support players when he breaks into the clear and confronts the fullback. In U19 Colts that was not necessarily a problem as he could simply beat them with speed or a step but as he progresses to a higher standard needs to work on the nuances for rugby league.

    I have mentioned his relative inexperience but his extreme athleticism goes a long way towards compensating and for someone with a limited rugby league background his hands in terms of catching high kicks are quite good, he has a degree more trouble field grubber kicks in his direction but that seems more to do with not waiting for the ball to get into his hands before trying to take off down the field, read that he gets too excited to get the ball into his hands.

    Defensively in QCup Colts is where his inexperience does show up as he works towards understanding when he should come in and when he should stay with his opposing winger but when he comes out of the line he is powerful enough to hit very hard.

    As discussed he is currently playing QCup Colts and has another year of U20 eligibility in 2017. I do not think that he will get to spend any time in QCup this year even though he played some trial games there. From a position perspective, whilst he played fullback in New Zealand I can absolutely understand why he is playing wing in Colts, he is unbelievably quick and also runs with strength and power.

    From a player comparison perspective, I cannot think of someone with a similar skill set in terms of athleticism, it is just at the elite level, the question is experience.

    He is a real boom or bust type, he will either be an absolute star or never make it out of QCup Colts, it will be very interesting to see whether he can harness his athletic ability and translate them into game situations. He will almost certainly get at least the opportunity to trial for an NYC contract at the end of the year and it will take only one team to believe that he can convert his potential into results for him to get a chance, here’s hoping it is the Titans who give him that opportunity.
    Last edited by mdrew; 31-03-16 at 11:44 AM.

  7. #7
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    Loving these write ups MDRew, do you have any footage or link to the kids in Northland. I think Mitipere is with the Broncos. Watched his highlights from the Tully grand final (it was u19s as well ). Hes a beast. Kids explosive and quick for a fronty. Definitely a mini Taumololo.

  8. #8
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    Thanks mate, heard some people say he is with the Bronco’s some others are adamant that he is not so who knows!

    Quote Originally Posted by RenegadeGC View Post
    Loving these write ups MDRew, do you have any footage or link to the kids in Northland. I think Mitipere is with the Broncos. Watched his highlights from the Tully grand final (it was u19s as well ). Hes a beast. Kids explosive and quick for a fronty. Definitely a mini Taumololo.

  9. #9
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    Taelem McGregor. He is a young second rower from the Upper Central Zone of New Zealand and played his club rugby league with the Turangawaewae club and was part of the Upper Central Zone development camp that was held last weekend. In 2015 he as invited to the U16 NZRL national Performance camp and in 2014 was named in the New Zealand Maori U15 tournament team and has represented the Wai-Coa Bay Colts in the New Zealand age championships at both the U15 and U17 levels.

    In attack, he is a wide running backrower with a very good turn of speed once he breaks through the line. He takes his share of runs in the middle of the ruck but he is impressive at running good lines on the fringes of the ruck and constantly picks the right holes to run into. He then has the speed to outpace any cover defence. From the games that I have seem he normally runs to the left side of the field, and will run wider out and look to come back on the inside shoulder of the opposition defence on the edge of the ruck, looking for situations where the opposition inside defenders are slow to come across.

    He is an aggressive runner and looks to continue to pump his legs once he has contacted the defensive line, this making more metres for his team and with his determination he will also on occasion break clear of the defenders totally. At the very least, due to him continuing to pump his legs, he forces more defenders to commit to the tackle, meaning the defensive line is not set once he plays the ball. The key to his attack however is how fast he runs at the defensive line, he flat out runs fast in the line, meaning that he regularly makes half breaks and follows it up with quick play the balls to maintain the momentum that he has created for his team.

    The one thing that stands out is regardless of how many times that you watch him play is the intensity and effort that he puts in to every moment that he is on the field, both in attack and defence. This attribute can be seen in his defence, which whilst aggressive, is not overly so, in the context of him losing his composure or discipline. He normally is not the biggest forward on the field, but he compensates with a good tackling technique which enables him to combat significantly larger forwards running at him on a one on one basis all be it if he tries to tackle too front on he can he bumped off on occasion. He is also very good at tracking the ball across the field and thus is in good position if the ball is passed back to an inside runner or to be in a good cover defending position if a break is made wider out.

    This year he has already represented Upper Central in a representative match against South Island and as noted is a scholarship holder for the U17 Upper Central Zone High Performance Squad. He will continue to play his club rugby league with the Turangawaewae club in the Waikato region and will almost certainly be one of the first players selected in the U17 Wai-Coa Bay Colts for the New Zealand age championships to be held in July of this year. He has from what I understand always played in the second row and there is nothing to suggest that this may change into the future.

    From a player comparison perspective, think of someone along the lines of South Sydney’s second rower Kyle Turner as a smaller type of backrower but one who runs at the defensive line with speed and regularly makes good ground.

  10. #10
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    Wesley Veikoso. He is a young front rower from the Mid Central Zone of New Zealand and plays his club rugby league in the region with the powerful Kia Ora Warriors club where he will play at the U17 level this year. In 2015 he actually played the season with South Sydney in the U16 Harold Matthews Cup but this year is back in New Zealand. The Titans have had some presence in this area, including running two performance camps in 2014 and 2015, the likes of young Gold Coast player Konrad Edwards is also from this area. To say this young man has made a number of representative sides in his junior rugby league career would be an understatement. He has represented New Zealand Residents U16 as well as the New Zealand U16 side, Manawatu Mustangs U15’s, Mid Central Vipers U15’s and the New Zealand U15 all-tournament team from the New Zealand Age Championships held in 2014. Already this year, he has made a guest appearance for the Glenora Bears U18 side against a New Zealand Warriors U18 selection.

    Wesley Veikoso is a solidly built young front rower with a low centre of gravity, which makes him quite difficult to tackle as he is also adept at dropping his shoulder into defenders as he impacts the defensive line. There is no subtlety to his game, he runs straight and hard, with the only concession to this being a slight step off his left foot in occasion prior to impacting the defensive line. One thing that he does do will however is continuing to pump his legs once his initial momentum is halted by the defensive line, he makes more metres than he should as a result and also forces defending teams to commit multiple defensive assets to stopping his progress. He does not have a real off load to his attacking game, but that is not his role, his role is to take the ball into the heart of the opposition’s defensive line and make as many metres as possible.

    Like his attacking game, his defensive methodology is simply constructed and enacted. He moves up and hits the ball carrier as hard as he can, as often as he can, full stop. He is best suited to defending in the centre of the ruck and that is where you will almost always find him and for a solidly built young player, he moves well in terms of moving up and back in defence. His lateral movement is actually quite reasonable for a front rower but he will on occasion have some difficulty with smaller faster stepping opposition players as do most solidly built young front rowers.

    For this season, he seems destined to play for the Kia Ora Warriors at the U17 level and I would suggest that almost certainly he will make both the Manawatu Mustangs and Mid Central Vipers U17 representative sides. From a position perspective, he currently plays in the front row and that is going to be his long term position as well.

    From a player comparison perspective, I would consider that a player with a similar build and a similar playing style is North Queensland Cowboys, Queensland and Australian front rower Matt Scott as a big strong front rower who is not flashy but works hard to put his team on the front foot through gaining ground through the centre of the ruck.

    I cannot be certain that he will not head back to play SG Ball with South Sydney in 2017, but if not he also certainly get another opportunity with an NRL club to look to progress through the ranks. I must admit I was quite surprised he was not part of the South Sydney’s SG Ball squad for this season, but their loss will be someone else’s gain.
    Last edited by mdrew; 01-04-16 at 09:09 AM.

  11. #11
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    Albert Polu. He is an exceptionally talented young backrower from Wellington in New Zealand and is a star in the making in either rugby league or union. In 2015 he represented the Wellington Orca’s at the U15 level in the New Zealand National Age Championships, and in 2014 as named Player of the Tournament for a National U14 competition as was also named in the Futures Team from that tournament. Wellington won the final of that tournament, 36-0 defeating Canterbury in the grand final, with Albert Polu scoring a try in that match. In relation to rugby he plays for St Patricks College Silverstream which from what I can find out is one of the stronger rugby schools in New Zealand (hopefully one of our NZ forum members can confirm). For his school, he plays both the 15 man and seven man versions and plays as a blind side flanker (No. 6). In a quick clip from a rugby sevens match he packed into the three man scrum in the abridged version of the game.

    The pace and power in terms of how he runs the ball is the outstanding feature of his game, he takes the ball to the line with speed, but he does not just put his head down and rush forward, he uses quick and subtle footwork prior to the line and seems to targets the gaps between defenders and will actively seek out opposing forwards who are slow to move up. When the opposition are on the back foot he will target the smaller defenders on the edge of the ruck and burst through and for a big young bloke he has very good speed over the medium term and has the strength to drag defenders with him. I would consider that his speed would be considered above average for a backrower but plays faster as a result of him timing his runs so well that the dummy half can present a flat pass to him and also as a result of the power that he runs at.

    He is also very effective close to the opposition try line with his ability to burst through tackles. If the defenders do not come off the try he will just drag them across the try line, with his continued development of which running lines he can utilise, such as running an inside shoulder line when close to the opposition try line he will become even more effective and will be an asset to the entire team as defences compress to combat his running thus leaving more room our wide. I am not expert in rugby but he seems to be always around the ball and seems to be very good in relation to running off short balls from the scrum half in the 15 man game.

    The defensive side of his game is similarly impressive, He does not just charge wildly up looking for a huge hit, but is calculating in where and when to hit. He drives hard with his legs and always uses his shoulder and core body strength to drive into his opponent. He sets a strong lower base by setting his legs and generating force by driving through the tackle with his lower body, gaining leverage and momentum, culminating with the power projecting through his shoulders with the kinetic effects projecting into his opponent. Because of the zone he targets, his tackles derives a lot of dropped balls as his tackles hit the bottom of the football knocking it loose and forcing the mistake from the opposition player.

    In relation to this season, he will be in contention for a spot in the Wellington Orca’s U17 side for the NZ National Age Competition even though he will be a lower age player in that age group and the part that Wellington has a lot of talented rugby league players coming through. The bigger issue is that he will also be once again playing rugby for St Patricks College Silversteam and from a review of media reports he seems to be making a name for himself nationally as a talented schoolboy rugby player and thus may see his future in rugby rather than league which you can certainly understand for a young kiwi boy considering how much they love rugby in NZ. From a position perspective, from what I understand he has always played in the back row in both codes and from the steams of both rugby and league matches seen, that seems to be his natural position going forward in either code.

    From a player comparison perspective think of South Sydney Rabbitoh Sam Burgess as a big strong powerful hard running and hardworking forward with a touch of class about him and is someone who his team mates will follow as he leads by example.

  12. #12
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    James Witehira. He is a young five eight from the Northlands region of New Zealand and like Jayden Leaupepe and Wiremu Greig were part of the Adam Blair XIII who were selected from local high schools to play a New Zealand Warriors U18 selection. The Adam Blair XIII lost the match 36 - 24 after leading the match 12 – 0 early in the first half in the annual match. Apparently that score line was the closest that the Northland boys had gotten to the Warriors in their games to date. In that match James Witehira actually played hooker and also captained the side, however he usually plays five eight for Kamo High School. He actually attended a trial with the Penrith Panthers in Australia late last year, but unfortunately did not make the final cut for their 2016 SG Ball squad. He is a larger build for a five eight in terms of height although not necessarily build, which is potentially why he was selected at hooker for the Adam Blair XIII to help combat the size of the Warriors U19 forwards.

    James Witehira’s calling card from an attacking perspective is his passing and game management abilities. He seems to have the ability to drift across the field and a wait for opportunities to develop as a defender on the edge of the ruck over commits causing gaps to develop in the defensive line. Once a gap develops he has quick hands and timing to provide a weighted pass to his support runners.

    In relation to his speed he does not appear to be overly quick, but he does have some reasonable speed off the mark, which is complemented by the fact that he runs at the right moment, for example when he is drifting across field he will dummy and run when defenders anticipate the pass rather than focussing on him running the ball. For a five eight I would agree that his speed when be considered average for a five eight, but if he transitions to the back row I would consider it to be above average. He does not appear to have an extra gear when he gets into open space.

    His kicking game is very accurate, and he can generate very good distance on his kicks whilst at the same time not losing too much accuracy, thus he has the ability to find the ground regularly for a lot of his kicks allowing his teams chasers more time to get down field and thus gaining an advantage in relation to field position. He also has the ability to kick very high bombs, allowing plenty of time for his chasers to get to the ball. He from footage he also seems to be a very good goal kicker and is Kamo High Schools primary goal kicker and also kicked conversions for the Adam Blair XIII representative side.

    Defensively he tackles well low and that is seemingly his main tactic against wide running forwards rather than trying to tackle them ball and all. In the schoolboy game against Whangarei Boys High School in the Adam Blair competition, he was battered by huge forwards such as Wiremu Greig constantly running at him but he continued to get in front of them by going in “low”. If he transitions full time to the forward pack he will need to increase his functional strength to deal with the rigours of playing full time there.

    Moving forward to the current season, he has already played a lot of schoolboy football in the Adam Blair schoolboy shield competition as well as making that competitions representative side in a match against a Warriors selection. With junior football ending at the U17 level in New Zealand he will need to make the step up to senior football once his schoolboy commitments have ceased even though he is only 18 years old. He has the skill set I am sure to pique the interest of NRL teams scouts and at worst I would think that at seasons end will be offered trials by a few clubs for an NYC contract for the 2017 season.

    In relation to consideration of his long term position, as noted he plays five eight for his school side and played hooker for a representative selection, but I would argue that his ultimate position may end up being in the forwards as a ball playing backrower. From the game stream his passing out of dummy half when playing at hooker did not seem to be fluid, there seemed to be two definitely movements in relation to passing the ball off the ground rather than a single movement, which is going to impact on the timing of the forwards running off his passes. I am not suggesting that with muscle memory development this cannot be achieved but this and his frame would appear to me to indicate that the possibility of a future in the back row with the ability to fill in at other positions when necessary would not be an appropriate career projection.

    From a player comparison perspective think along the lines of someone like Cronulla Sharks back rower Wade Graham as a player who played a lot of their junior football at five eight before transitioning to the back row and developing into a solid ball playing forward who can pop a short pass to his supports both prior to the line and when engaged with the defensive line. At present he obviously does not have the size of Wade graham but when Wade Graham initially transitioned to the back row fulltime he was not necessarily a big player either.

  13. #13
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    Reece Braun. He is a young nippy aggressive halfback who currently plays QCup Colts for the Redcliffe Dolphins after coming up through the junior ranks at the Easts Tigers where he played both CC and MM. He may not be the biggest player but he is adept and putting runners into holes and is also a very good game manager and a top notch goal kicker. So far this year, he has started all five rounds of the QCup Colts competition at halfback for the Dolphins. Through four matches this season he has scored 58 points, comprising of four tries and 21 goals, to be the leading points scorer in the Colts competition. Three of those tries came from a hat trick against the Sunshine Coast Falcons and was part of a 22 point haul over the weekend.

    He is only slight of build but do not take his lack of size in any way as a lack of ability or courage, he has a lot of both, which is on display each time he runs onto the field. With the ball he is a very good distributor and will take the ball to the line in an effort to set up his supports. He is adept at drawing an opposing defender out of the defensive line and then putting his support runner through the resulting gap. In terms of his speed, I would suggest that an appropriate definition of his speed would be that he is quick off the mark but does not have an extra gear when he breaks into open space.

    Regardless of the state of the game he will back his judgement and take the game on. Assisting his play is the fact that he makes the decision what to do with the ball quickly thus enabling the ball to get out wide quickly. In previous seasons when I have seen him play he sometimes took the line on himself too much, but the times that I have seen him play last season in MM and currently through the opening rounds of the QCup Colts competition, he has become more selective about when to pass and when to run. His passing game is solid but seems to be slightly better when he is passing to the right side of the field.

    He has a good short kicking game but he does not have the strongest leg in terms of kicking deep but is accurate and regularly finds the ground to enable the chasers to get down field. In defence, due to his size he is obviously not going to come up with the big hit but reads the play well and can hold his own when defending much bigger players. He is also very vocal on the field always talking and encouraging his side both in attack and defence.

    As his statistics show he is an accurate goal kicker who also gets a deal of distance with his kicks, he can and will get them from the sideline regularly. Since the CC competition he has been his side’s primary goal kicker and I cannot see that changing into the future. So far this year, his kicking accuracy is 75%.

    As noted he has started the opening rounds of the QCup competition and is also eligible for that competition again in 2017. His slight build means that he will likely stay at halfback long term and certainly from the CC competition up through MM to now QCup Colts he has always played in that position.

    From a player comparison perspective thing maybe a Gary Freeman type player as someone who will give everything on the field regardless of their size and will not back down and has the organisational, leadership and game management skills that will give him an opportunity to succeed. Like Freeman he also seems to have a bit of mongrel in his game as well.

    As harsh as this sounds I do not think that he will get an opportunity in NYC because he is not the biggest or strongest player regardless of his tenacity but if a club takes a flyer on him they may well be presently surprised at how well he does.

  14. #14
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    John Henare-Clarke. He is a big young front rower and also like a few others on this thread from the Northlands area of New Zealand, getting information and steams from this area is quite easy, also for whatever reason it is an area that is relatively untouched for some unknown reason, outside of maybe Penrith who have grabbed a couple of youngsters from the area in recent times who are doing good things such as James Fisher-Harris who has recently made his first grade debut. He was the front row partner of Wiremu Greig for the Adam Blair XIII side in their recent narrow loss to a New Zealand Warriors U18 selection. He was selected in the representative squad after standing out for Northland College in the Adam Blair cup competition which kicked off in February and is now at the grand final stage with Northland College losing their semi-final to Whangarei Boys High School late last week. He also has a twin brother Phoenix who came off the bench for the Adam Blair XIII, he is also a front rower and is John’s regular starting front row partner for Northland College. Northland College may be vaguely familiar to some, it was the school the Titans were looking to set up a program with Graham Lowe three or four years ago when Michael Searle was still in charge through their Titans4tomorrow arm.

    The way he and for that matter his twin brother also plays in attack has no subtlety involved, he just runs hard and straight throwing self-preservation out of the window, in a long run that probably not great for him but it does fire up his team mates when they see him charging at full speed into a set forward defensive line. I have not seen many offloads from him but obviously the type of game he plays requires few mistakes although on occasion he does lose control of the ball and thus ball security will be a focus moving forward. From the streams that I have seen it really is a one two punch in terms of both his running and that of his twin brother, they both gain a lot of ground through the centre of the ruck and also break a lot of tackles when defenders look to tackle him one on one and especially when they look to tackle him around the chest as he has the strength to shrug of defenders due to his core strength.

    Defensively he hits very hard and usually aims for just under the ribs and is certainly someone opposing forwards look for when running the ball up and is adept at making sure the opposition do not get quick play the balls, read that he is very good at winning the wrestling battle in the ruck but just needs to adjust to how each referee looks at a game. He defends in the centre of the ruck and seems best suited in the long run defending there and adds a degree of intimidation to any forward pack he plays for, but he seems to wear down from a stamina perspective as the game progresses and that is mainly when mistakes creep into his game.

    Moving forward to the current season, he has already played a lot of schoolboy football in the Adam Blair shield competition as well as making that competitions representative side in a match against a Warriors side. With junior football ending at the U17 level he will need to make the step up to senior football once his schoolboy commitments have ceased even though he is only 17/18 years old which is quite a difficult proposition for someone that young. From what I understand he has always played in the front row which is not real surprise based on his skill set and playing style from the footage.

    From a player comparison perspective, maybe some along the lines of current Manly Sea Eagles front rower Darcy Lussick as a solid hard working old school type front rower. Based on output alone I would like that he will get an opportunity to trial for an NYC contract for next year and sometimes young forward like him get over looked because they are not playing it what may be considered not the highest standard, but he has the physical attributes to challenge for an opportunity if given one. Any team that signs him is not going to get the next Matt Scott but they are going to get a young player who will take the ball up all day.

  15. #15
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    Thomas Anderson. He is a tall, strong young backrower from Dargaville High School in the Northland region of New Zealand. He also started in the second row for the Adam Blair XIII representative side in their recent narrow loss to a New Zealand Warriors U18 selection. He was selected in the representative squad after standing out for Dargaville College in the Adam Blair cup competition. Dargaville High School made the semi-finals of the Adam Blair Plate Competition. He has previously represented the Northern Swords at the U15 level in 2014 when the Northern Swords made the final of the U15 National Age tournament and Thomas Anderson was actually named forward of the tournament which is quite an impressive achievement when taking into account the quality of forwards on display. The Adam Blair XIII really took on the Warriors U18 forward pack in their recent match and Thomas Anderson was in the thick of the action and did not look out of place at all.

    His style of play is that of a powerful wide running back rower with above average speed for the position. I would actually argue that in fact a better definition of his speed would be well above average to plus. He is quite quick off the mark, but what makes him even more impressive from a speed perspective is that when he gets into space, he has an extra gear again which is a plus attribute for such a strong powerful second rower, making it almost impossible for the cover defence to catch him once he is open space.

    Defences had all sorts of trouble trying to contain him in schoolboy rugby league for Dargaville High School this year and even the Warriors U18 squad had a difficult time containing him, especially early in the game, both in terms of him taking the ball up into the centre of the ruck, but he was almost untouchable when he ran on the fringes of the ruck and he used his foot work to beat defenders with a variety of moves, including a step off both feet and a very good in and away as well as simply running over people. Couple those two aspects with a very good fend and you have a big strong powerful young player who can cause nightmares for any defensive line. From the steams that I have seen, including both schoolboy and representative matches he seems to line up on the right side of the field more so than the left, but I have no doubt moving forward that he will be able to play on either side of the field, he seems to be just so skilful.

    For a backrower of his size, he runs with pace, strength and power every time he touches the ball during a game. For a young player, he seems to have a good understanding of when to off load the ball, currently most of his off loads occur when he is part way through the defensive line and can get his right arm free to pass to his outside support runners. At this stage he does not off load prior to the line, but again we are talking about a young player here, who is still developing his skills and understanding of the game. I do not necessarily think that offloading is ever going to be a major part of his game but if this attribute continues to progress it will compliment other aspects of his game.

    He is aggressive in defence whether he is defending in the centre of the ruck or on the fringes, and due to his natural strength is more than capable of defending one on one and can and will stop even the biggest opposing forwards in their tracks and targets the area around where the attackers carry the football. His speed and lateral movement means that he will not be beaten by light stepping halves trying to take advantage of tiring forwards or the opposition running out of dummy half. I have noted that he is aggressive and seems to want to win every one on one battle and he invariably does. He does however tend to drift inside and defend in the centre of the ruck as games progress rather than hold his spacing on the edges of the ruck, but heck that seems to be more to do with enjoying the physical aspects of rugby league and wanting to be in the thick of the action.

    Due to his speed and athleticism he covers across the field well, thus putting him in a good position to make the tackle when the ball is turned back inside from the halves. He also is clearly very fit, he played big minutes for the Adam Blair XIII and also plays the entire 70 minutes for his school side. It is almost impossible to tell from video streams but he still seems to be going full speed at the end of games.

    Moving to this season he will almost certainly be part of the Northern Swords U17 squad for the New Zealand Age Championships and continue playing for Dargaville High School in schoolboy matches. He will also play club football at the U17 level in the Jennian Homes junior rugby league competition. From a position perspective, he has the ideal build for a powerful strong running backrower who has the frame to likely be able to put on some more muscle mass without compromising his above average speed. In short he has all of the attributes you would want to see in a backrower in the NRL.

    From a player comparison perspective he has the build and running and tackling style of a young Sonny Bill Williams, he just oozes class and the scary thing is that I do not think that he has even come close to realising his potential. He does not have the offloading skills of Sonny Bill Williams and probably never will but he does look a talent.

    I am very surprised that he has not been picked up by an NRL club to date, but I am sure that he will, especially if he gets to the U17 NZ Age Championships unsigned as every NRL club sends scouts to that tournament. The Northlands based Adam Blair XIII forwards really took it to their more “known” Warriors opponents in their recent match and a few I am sure will get further opportunities as a result. I have watched streams of his matches a number of times now and even after a couple of watches I shake my head as you see his skills on display.


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