Coach Reon Graham has confirmed his 2023 Counties Manukau Rugby PIC Steelers squad for the upcoming Bunnings Warehouse NPC.
Sticking with his theory of picking local, Graham has named a side choc-full of players that have stood out during the McNamara Cup season while All Blacks number eight Hoskins Sotutu will be available for the start of the season at least.
Graham has handed contracts to 14 first time Steelers players. Props Sailesi Tuifua (Karaka) and Keran van Staden (Pukekohe), hookers Ian West-Stevens (Pukekohe) and Palu Ale (Patumahoe), loose forward Leo Ngatai-Tafau (Pukekohe), halfbacks Cohen Brady-Leathem (Patumahoe) and Kanavale Helu (Pukekohe), first-five Jamie King (Pukekohe), midfielder Alex Eruera (Patumahoe), wingers Joshua Gray (Patumahoe), Blake Makiri (Manurewa) and Solomone Naiduki (Manurewa) and first-five/fullback Josh Penney (Karaka) have all been picked to potentially play first class rugby for the first time.
In addition to those rookies, Graham has brought back some familiar faces with Jimmy Tupou, Viliami Taulani and Toni Pulu returning to continue their careers after time overseas.
All Blacks Sevens rep Sione Molia and former Steelers number eight Maama Vaipulu have earned re-calls after returning to club rugby in the region this season while former Waikato lock James Thompson earns selection after standing out with Patumahoe in the McNamara Cup.
The squad boasts 18 players with Super Rugby experience.
“To say I am excited for the season ahead is an understatement,” said Graham. “I am really happy with the squad we have assembled. It is a much larger squad than last year with the view to building depth. We have some very good experience in key positions and the 14 debutants last year are all going to be better off from the experience.
“There are some players that have been unlucky to miss out, but it is good to be able to provide our Counties players with an opportunity to shine and represent our union.”
The PIC Steelers begin their campaign with an away trip to Taranaki on Friday August 4.
Memberships are on sale now.
2023 PIC Steelers squad
Props: Suetena Asomua (Karaka), Lionel Evans (Patumahoe), Kauvaka Kaivelata (Pukekohe), Ezekiel Lindenmuth (Ardmore Marist), Salesi Tuifua (Karaka), Keran van Staden (Pukekohe).
Hookers: Palu Ale (Patumahoe), Ioane Moananu (Manurewa), Zuriel Togiatama (Papakura), Ian West-Stevens (Pukekohe).
Locks: William Furniss (Patumahoe), Jadin Kingi (Pukekohe), Alex McRobbie (Bombay), James Thompson (Patumahoe), Jimmy Tupou (Patumahoe).
Loose forwards: Samuel Slade (Pukekohe), Adam Brash (Bombay), Thor Manase (Manurewa), Alamanda Motuga (Papakura), Leo Ngatai-Tafau (Pukekohe), Dalton Papali’i (Patumahoe), Sean Reidy (Patumahoe), Hoskins Sotutu (Papakura), Ryan Stewart (Patumahoe), Viliami Taulani (Manurewa), Sam Tuifua (Karaka), Maama Vaipulu (Pukekohe).
Halfbacks: Cohen Brady-Leathem (Patumahoe), Liam Daniela (Patumahoe), Kanavale Helu (Pukekohe), Cam Roigard (Onewhero).
First-fives: Riley Hohepa (Patumahoe), Jamie King (Pukekohe), Josh Penney (Karaka).
Midfield backs: AJ Alatimu (Ardmore Marist), Alex Eruera (Patumahoe), Nikolai Foliaki (Karaka), Nua Soti (Patumahoe), Larenz Tupaea-Thomsen (Manurewa).
Wingers: Esau Filimoehala (Karaka), Joshua Gray (Patumahoe), Blake Makiri (Manurewa), Peniasi Malimali (Karaka), Sione Molia (Karaka), Solomone Naiduki (Manurewa), Toni Pulu (Bombay), Rodney Tongotea (Karaka).
Fullbacks: Etene Nanai-Seturo (Karaka), Tevita Ofa (Manurewa), Ahsee Tuala (Manurewa).
Coaching & Management
Coach – Reon Graham
Assistant Coach – Jimmy Maher
Assistant Coach – Paul Wheeler
Scrum Coach – Pauliasi Manu
Head of S&C – Jed Knox
Analyst – Leaha Dickey
Physio – Jarrod Stevenson
Doctor – Sanjeev Krishna
Manager – Craig Notman
Manager – Dale Tucker
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