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Junior Kiwis dominated by Warriors and Cowboys
NYC grand finalists the Vodafone Junior Warriors and North Queensland supply all but five of the Junior Kiwis' 18-man squad for their one-off international against the Junior Kangaroos at Ausgrid Stadium in Newcastle on October 16.
After winning the Toyota Cup for the second consecutive year on Sunday, the John Ackland-coached Warriors provide 10 players while the Cowboys have three including 18-year-old second rower Jason Taumalolo, one of three players in the squad with NRL experience.
Taumalolo has played for the Cowboys at first-grade level in the last two seasons while fellow back rower Josh Papalii has appeared for the Canberra Raiders this year and prop Ben Murdoch-Masila has turned out for Wests Tigers over the last two seasons.
Taumalolo is a survivor from the David Kidwell-coached Junior Kiwis' two-match campaign against the Junior Kangaroos last year while others returning are the Warriors' trio of Carlos Tuimavave, Sebastine Ikahihifo and Samiuela Lousi.
The other players selected from the champion Warriors side are fullback Omar Slaimankhel, winger Adam Henry, centre Sosaia Feki, hooker Siliva Havili, prop Agnatius Paasi, loose forward John Palavi and utility Sio Siua Taukeiaho. Captain Ben Henry was also a contender but wasn't available as he is getting married while two other Vodafone Junior Warriors - halfback Jordan Meads and utility George Maka - are among the players on standby.
Slaimankhel missed Sunday's 31-30 extra time win over the Cowboys but still finished the season's as the competition's top try scorer with 27 tries in 25 games. Three other players in the squad feature among the leading try-scorers. North Queensland standoff Michael Parker Walshe was second with 24, Henry eighth with 19 and North Queensland fullback Wayne Ulugia 13th with 17.
In last year's series the Junior Kiwis recovered from losing the first clash in Wellington by stunning the Australians in Rotorua when they converted a 0-20 halftime deficit into a 36-20 victory.
Of the players in the 2010 squad, Glen Fisiiahi (Warriors), Shaun Johnson (Warriors), Siuatonga Likiliki (Newcastle), Sam Mataora (Canberra), Kane Morgan (South Sydney), Nafe Seluini (Penrith), Lama Tasi (Sydney Roosters), Martin Taupau (Canterbury-Bankstown), Bill Tupou (Warriors) and Dean Whare (Manly) as well as Taumalolo have all made NRL appearances this year.
Kidwell, now Melbourne's NRL assistant coach, is again coaching the Junior Kiwis.
2011 JUNIOR KIWIS
Kenneath Bromwich Melbourne Storm
Sosaia Feki Warriors
Tohu Harris Melbourne Storm
Siliva Havili Warriors
Adam Henry Warriors
Sebastine Ikahihifo Warriors
Samiuela Lousi Warriors
Ben Murdoch-Masila Wests Tigers
Agnatius Paasi Warriors
John Palavi Warriors
Josh Papalii Canberra Raiders
Michael Parker-Walshe North Queensland Cowboys
Andrew Pelasio Penrith Panthers
Omar Slaimankhel Warriors
Sio Siua Taukeiaho Warriors
Jason Taumalolo North Queensland Cowboys
Carlos Tuimavave Warriors
Wayne Ulugia North Queensland Cowboys
Players on standby:
Jordan Meads Warriors
George Maka Warriors
John Koko North Queensland Cowboys
Tupou Sopoaga Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs