7 Sep 2016

Eight possible debutants in Kiwis squad

3:42 pm on 7 September 2016

Eight possible debutants have been named in Stephen Kearney's initial Kiwi rugby league squad to prepare for next month's Test against Australia and then the Four Nations tournament in England.

Solomone Kata scores a try for the
Warriors in their loss to Wests Tigers.

Solomone Kata scores a try for the Warriors. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Kearney has named a first installment of 23 players drawn from the clubs that did not make the NRL play-offs.

Manly prop Addin Fonua-Blake, Warriors utility David Fusitu'a, Warriors centre Solomone Kata, Warriors prop Sam Lisone, Sydney forward Isaac Liu, Wests centre Tim Simona, Parramatta centre Brad Takairangi and Warriors second row Bodene Thompson are the possible debutants.

Liu, Takairangi and Thompson have been part of Kiwis squads before, without actually taking the field.

Kata played for Tonga earlier this year, while Thompson was one of a group of Warriors players that were suspended for the ANZAC test after breaking team protocols by mixing prescription pills and energy drinks.

Coach Stephen Kearney said Kata made it clear he would switch allegiance to New Zealand if he was ever picked for the Kiwis, and under the eligibility rules he must now swear himself to New Zealand until the next World Cup.

Kearney said Thompson, along with experienced Kiwis players Manu Vatuvei and Ben Matulino, have done enough to warrant re-selection after their suspensions earlier in the year.

"They've all learned from their mistakes," he said.

"Certainly after that period when the Warriors had a bit of a tough time and then all of a sudden put themselves in contention to end up in the finals... they were big contributors to that.

"I know what they're capable of ability-wise, but in terms of the team culture and what we're trying to protect there with the Kiwi jersey, you know we'll make that decision [at the beginning of October]."

Also regaining places in the wider squad are the Warriors hooker Isaac Luke - who was dropped for the ANZAC test after poor performances for the Warriors - and the Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.

Waerea-Hargreaves hasn't played for the Kiwis since 2013, after being dropped in 2014 and ruled out through injury last year.

He said the prospect of making the team again has given him goosebumps.

"It's quite emotional... because I am a very proud man and it has been a while, and I'm super excited to be in the mix again," he said.

"To even think that I could be possibly wearing the black jersey again at the end of the year is very exciting."

The wider squad will consist of 36 players and will be named in installments as their teams drop out of NRL premiership contention over coming weeks.

The size of that squad will also fluctuate, depending on injuries and other unavailabilities that arise.

Several Kiwis regulars are already ruled out through injury and other factors, including Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Peta Hiku, Dean Whare, Kieran Foran and Kodi Nikorima.

Kearney said Melbourne Storm prop Jesse Bromwich - who was the captain for the ANZAC Test - was not likely to take up the captaincy for the tour.

"I've always said if Simon [Mannering] is fit and ready to go, he'll be the captain."

A final travelling squad of 24 will be named during the week after the NRL Grand Final on October 2nd.

The first group of Kiwis train-on players named is:

Lewis Brown - Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

Addin Fonua-Blake - Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

David Fusitu'a - NZ Warriors

Shaun Johnson - NZ Warriors

Solomone Kata - NZ Warriors

Shaun Kenny-Dowall - Sydney Roosters

Thomas Leuluai - NZ Warriors

Sam Lisone - NZ Warriors

Isaac Liu - Sydney Roosters

Tuimoala Lolohea - NZ Warriors

Issac Luke - NZ Warriors

Simon Mannering - NZ Warriors

Ben Matulino - NZ Warriors

Manu Ma'u - Parramatta Eels

Sam Moa - Sydney Roosters

Jason Nightingale - St George Illawarra Dragons

Tim Simona - Wests Tigers

Brad Takairangi - Parramatta Eels

Martin Taupau - Manly Warringah Sea Eagles

Elijah Taylor - Wests Tigers

Bodene Thompson - NZ Warriors

Manu Vatuvei - NZ Warriors

Jared Waerea-Hargreaves - Sydney Roosters