The 2016 Fox Memorial Premiership gets underway this weekend, with some of New Zealand’s best domestic talent – young and not so young – on display. We rank Auckland’s top 10 club players right here. (Main photo: photosport.nz)
10. Jeremiah Pai
Boasts experience at higher levels, having been part of the Warriors’ NRL squad in the early 2000’s, Pai has been around for a long time and defies his age on the field.
His passing and kicking game are among the best in the competition and he’s a big part of the Pt Chevalier game plan on any given weekend.
9. Tulson Caird
A strong communicator in defence and a leading reason why Mt Albert have been so strong in the middle of the park in recent times.
Caird featured for the old Auckland Vulcans in the NSW Cup for a number of years. Has a strong work ethic on both sides of the ball.
8. Misi Ma’u
An uncompromising defender who shares the ferocious competitive nature which has made brother, Manu, a force on the NRL scene with Parramatta.
Misi is frequently among the best players on the field for Marist, and last year represented Auckland against the New Zealand Maori Residents.
7. Herman Retzlaff
For a man of his size Retzlaff possesses an impressive engine, which at times has seen him play big minutes for the Pirates.
An intimidating player with the ball in hand, he has good leg drive which maximises post-contact metres.
6. Siua Otunuku
What is the last thing you want to see running at you after containing repeated raids by the bruising Pt Chevalier forward pack? We don’t know for sure, but imagine Siua Otunuku would be somewhere on the list.
The diminutive fullback was almost untouchable in 2014, scoring tries for fun as Pt Chevalier romped to the Fox Memorial Premiership title. He was a little less effective last year, but stood up when it counted in the grand final. Support play and pure pace are his major boasts.
5. Roman Hifo
In all likelihood the only man to be selected to play for the USA national rugby league team while plying his trade for a team in South Auckland, Hifo has been a standout on the local scene for a number of years now.
A natural leader with a tough playing style.
4. Dillon Rota
His fitness has improved out of sight over the last year or so, and with it his game has gone to new heights. One of the Fox Memorial Premiership’s best edge-attackers, Rota is powerfully built with decent speed.
Has represented New Zealand Maori selection and should feature a few times at Intrust Super Premiership level this year for the Warriors.
3. Malo Solomona
His experience at higher levels, with the Warriors in the NRL and Samoa on the international stage, really shines through when Solomona puts on the Pt Chevalier jersey.
He reads the game well defensively and can find his way to the line. Hasn’t played every game for the Pirates in recent times, instead often being called up by Stacey Jones to play for the Warriors’ reserves.
2. Eddie Purcell
A graduate of the first-ever Junior Warriors team from season 2008, Purcell played a number of years in the Queensland Cup for Norths and could still cut it at reserve grade level now.
His professional approach allows him to often play big minutes in the middle of the park for the Lions and he is highly regarded among opposition coaches as well.
1. Raymond Talimalie
Athletically gifted with nimble feet and decent speed, Talimalie added a new dimension to his game last year and was deservingly rewarded by being named the Fox Memorial Premiership Player of the Year.
Small in stature but stinging in defence, that allows him to play across the halves or at hooker. The Mangere East playmaker was called up to the Warriors’ NSW Cup side regularly last year and should feature again at some point in 2016. Talimalie was also named the NZRL Domestic Player of the Year, so it’s hard to argue against him topping this list.