Newcastle Knights' Kalyn Ponga will sit out of this weekend's NZ Māori vs NZ Residents match to recover an injury, despite his recent naming in the NZ Māori team. Coach Ricky Henry says he's still looking forward to a fresh lineup of young talent that will take to the field this weekend.
Despite the loss of Kalyn Ponga an exciting lineup of fresh Māori talent will form this weekend's clash in Auckland.
Head Coach Ricky Henry says, "We've got a really solid squad, really enjoy that we've got a few boys from Ngā Hau e Whā tournament that was over in Australia last week so, the likes of Piki Rogers who captains our team as well."
This weekend will feature nine debutants including three under 20 players who wear the Māori jersey for the first time. Meanwhile four representatives from the recently completed NSW Ngā Hau E Whā tournament return, including Taku Simon, Patrick Herbert, Clayton Williams and Mitch Clark, as well as Central Queensland Capras Lock, Samson Graham.
Henry says the combination of young and experienced talent will give the side new flare and a platform to launch the up and coming, "Dean Kouka-Smith is a young guy that is coming through the Warriors System and is also part of the local league so he's done a really good job here in New Zealand this year."
The New Zealand Māori will be looking for a comeback in their match against New Zealand Residents after 30-10 loss in Huntly last year.
Henry says, "They got up on us last year and I thought they played really really well, a lot of those boys went on to play in NRL. So for us, it's an opportunity to represent our people, who we are and we will definitely play with pride and do our best to try and win there."
The New Zealand Māori vs New Zealand Residents match kicks off at 2.30pm this Saturday at Takanini's Bruce Pullman Park.
NZ Māori Ruby League lineup
Aussie Tuwhangai - Ngāti Maniapoto
Clayton Williams – Ngāti Maniapoto
Dean Kouka-Smith – Ngāti Porou, Ngāpuhi
Francis Leger – Ngāpuhi
Kalyn Ponga – Te Ati Haunui a Pāpārangi
Kouma Samson – Te Arawa, Te Rarawa
Manaia Osborne – Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Rangitihi
Mitch Clark – Tainui
Partrick Herbert – Tūhoe
Piki Rogers- Ngāpuhi, Tūhoe
Reece Joyce – Ngāpuhi
Roydon Gillett – Tainui, Hauraki
Samson Graham – Te Atiawa
Taku Simon – Tainui
Taylor Daniels – Te Atiawa
Teariki Peneha – Ngāti Raukawa
Trent Wallace – Ngāi Tahu, Ngāpuhi
Coach: Ricky Henry – Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahungunu
Assistant Coach: Neville Rogers – Ngāpuhi, Te Arawa