Kiwileaguecentral.com is counting down the top 50 New Zealand league players on the planet right now.
To qualify for this list a player has to be eligible to play for New Zealand, but can be playing for another second-tier nation currently, hence the inclusion of those currently playing for Tonga, Samoa etc.
Here’s spots 40-31…
40 – Raymond Faitala-Mariner
Only managed 10 NRL games last year but made the most of his time on the field by averaging 82 run metres and scoring a pair of tries. Entering his sixth season at first-grade level, the Otahuhu Leopards junior will be looking to cement a permanent place in the Bulldogs’ pack in 2020.
39 – Kevin Proctor
Still going strong at age 31, Proctor was part of the Kiwis’ team which beat Great Britain in the second game of their series last year. Will bring up 250 NRL games should he play nine times through the remainder of 2020.
38 – Isaac Liu
Consistently one of the Roosters’ best forwards and despite now boasting eight caps for New Zealand, Liu still doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Averaged 25 tackles per game in the NRL last season.
37 – Bailey Simonsson
Enjoyed a remarkable 2019 after starting the year on a train-and-trial deal with the Raiders. By the end of it he’d played in an NRL Grand Final and scored eight tries all up. Rewarded with selection the Kiwis squad at the end of the year but didn’t play a game.
36 – Isaiah Papali’i
Although he played the most games (23) of his three-season NRL career last year, there’s a fair argument that Papali’i may have actually dropped off a little in a struggling team. But there’s no doubting his talent, and a planned permanent shift to the middle in 2020 could be the making of the former Mt Albert Grammar School union star.
35 – Zane Tetevano
Shook off the disappointment of being omitted from the Roosters’ Grand Final squad just before kick-off to star for the Kiwis at the end of the year. Made his debut for New Zealand off the bench against Australia before starting in the front row in both Tests against Great Britain.
— Sydney Roosters 🏆🏆 (@sydneyroosters) April 28, 2019
34 – Marata Niukore
Really hit his straps in his second season at first-grade level, earning 12 starts for the Eels and playing 25 games all up. A hard-running edge forward, the one-time Junior Kiwi is on track to become a key part of Parra’s pack this season.
33 – Jeremy Marshall-King
After bouncing around the halves and hooker across the first two years of his career, ‘JMK’ found his home in the No.9 jersey for the Bulldogs last year and played 23 games, 17 of which were starts. Appeared for New Zealand – alongside brother Benji – at the World Cup 9s at the end of the year.
— Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs (@NRL_Bulldogs) September 13, 2019
32 – Jazz Tevaga
Enjoyed a solid year for the Warriors despite carrying numerous injuries for much of the season. Broke the NRL record for most combined tackles and runs in a game, with a remarkable haul of 72 tackles and 22 runs, in round 17 last year.
31 – Braden Hamlin-Uele
After playing just two games across the first two seasons of his NRL career, the big man from Glenora became a permanent fixture in Cronulla’s pack in 2019 and appeared in 21 matches. By the end of the year he was part of the Kiwis squad that played against Australia.
(Photo: Jazz Tevaga. Credit: Naparazzi via Flickr).