Junior Kiwi Joseph Tapine’s elevation to the Newcastle Knights’ first-grade line-up has captured the attention of Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney over the past couple of weeks.
Wellingtonian Tapine (20) is the latest young NZ talent promoted to the NRL stage, running for 63 metres and making 11 tackles in this week’s heartbreaking 14-15 loss to Manly Sea Eagles.
Last week, the second rower debuted with 24 tackles as an interchange player in a 10-32 loss to Penrith Panthers.
“He’s been part of the Junior Kiwis programme and is one of the team’s leaders,” says Kearney. “I know he didn’t get much time coming off the bench, but it’s a recognition thing.
“Against Manly, he really didn’t look like this was just his second game of first-grade footy.”
Kearney has also noted the form of NZ Warriors back Ngani Laumape, who seems to have solidified his spot in the club’s first-grade line-up.
Over the past three weeks, he has averaged almost 120 metres, scoring a spectacular try in last week’s big win over Canberra Raiders and running for a game-high 178 metres in the previous outing against Melbourne.
“Since he’s come into the Warriors squad, to me, he’s made every post a winner,” says Kearney.
“Ngani has applied himself really well and come up with some really strong performances over that period.”
Laumape (21) is of Tongan heritage, but was a Junior Kiwis team-mate of Tapene last year and is still very much on the Kiwis selection radar for this year’s Four Nations tournament.
The other standout in NRL play this week was Kiwis prop Jesse Bromwich (Kiwi #775), who is surely establishing himself as one of the premier forwards in the competition.
He gained 163 metres and made 29 tackles in Melbourne Storm’s 27-14 win over South Sydney.
“In the last couple of matches, Jesse has continued on from the test match, really” says Kearney.
“They played Manly after the test and he was very strong in that game, and he was again integral in a pretty dominant Melbourne performance on the weekend.”