Academy players showcasing program's growing success

Academy players showcasing program's growing success

A total of 20 current or recent Academy players were named in Reon Graham’s 2023 PIC Steelers squad demonstrating the massive success the program is experiencing.

Long considered an area where the Union was under-achieving, the Academy space is fast becoming a pipeline of top-shelf talent as player after player graduates into the PIC Steelers.

Seven players made their NPC debuts out of the Academy last year and 11 have played NPC already.

In the current squad, 15 have featured in the Academy since 2020, representing a massive influx into the Union’s showpiece team.

Seven players have secured selection in the Chiefs U20s followed by a PIC Steelers debut, highlighting the pathway element.

There are six current Academy players in the PIC Steelers squad while a further 10 players have made this year’s Counties Manukau U19’s to compete in the Northern Regions (Blues and Chiefs) U19’s Tournament. Five of these boys are eligible for Chiefs U20’s next year.

There are two current Academy players named in the Counties Manukau Development team.

“The noticeable trend is the incredible recent conversion of Academy players in their second year of Academy to Steelers, with selection into Chiefs U20’s being a strong indicator,” Richie Harris Counties Manukau Rugby Academy Manager said.

“This conversion rate represents a significant improvement on where we’ve been as a Union in the past and aligns with Reon’s philosophy of picking home-grown talent.  

“A lot is owed to Chad Shepherd and Pete Shaw in talent identification and player development in the Academy space in the last few years and can also be attributed to the extra investment in this space through some fantastic Counties men such as Gary Millington, Michael Scott, Rod Ketels, Dean Littin and Chris Nicholson who have personally contributed behind the scenes.”

Academy graduates/players in PIC Steelers: Jimmy Tupou (2010-11), Viliami Taulani (2016-18), Suetena Asomua (2017-19), Rodney Tongotea (2017-18), Joshua Gray (2017-19), Leo Ngatai-Tafau (2019-22), Cam Roigard (2019-20), Ioane Moananu (2020-21), Larenz Tupaea-Thomsen (2020-21), Jadin Kingi (2021-22), Tevita Ofa (2021-22), Thor Manase (2021-22), Kauvaka Kaivelata (2021-22), Sam Tuifua (2022), Kanavale Helu (2021-23), Esau Filimoehala (2022-23), Keran van Staden (2022-23), Josh Penney (2022-23), Cohen Brady-Leathem (2022-23), Salesi Tuifua (2023).

Academy players in Counties Manukau Development squad: Nikolasi Muli, Nic Snyman.

Academy players in Counties Manukau U19s: Mak Kailahi, Jessiah Tanoai, Fakaongo Leaamanu, Nathan Halliday, Taeao Pomale-Time, Austin Carew, Lenz Tupai, Andrew Malua, Kafa Vaea, Siaosi Lealiifano. Liam Dowdall and Zach Baleicakau are both injured.