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NSW School Champs Next generation of talent on show in rugby league extravaganza

Iverson Matai Endeavour SHS & Cronulla Sharks) is playing in the NSW CHS Open side
Iverson Matai Endeavour SHS & Cronulla Sharks) is playing in the NSW CHS Open side

NSW School Champs Next generation of talent on show in rugby league extravaganza

Author : Nick Campton & Jocelyn Airth

The best schoolboy rugby league players will battle it out this week in the NSW Schools Championship – and you can watch it all here. These are just a few of the potential stars.

They are the cream of the crop when it comes to juniors in NSW and it won’t be long until they become the next generation of NRL stars.

With the NSW Schools Championship kicking off on Tuesday, budding NRL careers could be made as the best schoolboy players in the state go head to head.

With all the action being streamed live on The Daily Telegraph website from Tuesday, we’ve picked the players to watch from all six sides that will take the field.

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Opens NSW Combined Catholic Colleges

John Sagaga (Patrician Brothers College, Blacktown)

Those in the know describe Sagaga in the James Fisher-Harris mould – the strong, silent type who leads the way in the middle of the field. Sagaga has appeared for Penrith’s Jersey Flegg side as a 17-year old and is one of the best up and coming forwards in the state. Don’t be surprised if he’s one of the first names on the list to crack the NRL.

John Sagaga is in the James Fisher-Harris mould.John Sagaga is in the James Fisher-Harris mould.

Ryley Smith (St Dominic’s College)

A talented dummy half and opening batsman, you’ll struggle to find a greater competitor than Penrith’s SG Ball hooker. Smith is a great leader with an exceptional kicking game – not only is it long, but it’s also left-footed. Almost orchestrated an upset win over Westfields SHS in last year’s NRL Schoolboy Cup.

Paul Alamoti (Marist College Kogarah)

Alamoti has tremendous physical gifts, which he showcased as a rampaging centre for Canterbury’s SG Ball side this year, but he has the attitude to back it up. With strong leadership qualities and an exceptional attitude at training, Alamoti is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to making his NRL dreams come true. Signed with the Bulldogs until at least the end of 2023.

Paul Alamoti (centre) is said to have tremendous physical gifts.

Paul Alamoti (centre) is said to have tremendous physical gifts.

Ethan Sanders (Patrician Brothers College, Blacktown)

Crafty halfback who steered Parramatta’s Harold Matthews Cup side to the 2021 grand final. Dangerous on the last, always seems to have time. Sanders has learnt plenty from Eels NRL rookie Jakob Arthur, who played above him in last year’s NRL Schoolboy Cup.

Josh Alhazim (Patrician Brothers College, Fairfield)

Another stand out in Parramatta’s Harold Matthews Cup side. An explosive second-rower with exceptional footwork. Strong for his size. Has scored a couple of brilliant tries for Patrician Brothers Fairfield in this year’s NRL Schoolboy Cup.

Opens NSW Combined High Schools

Junior Taupau (Endeavour SHS)

Younger brother of NRL star Marty Taupau. Was a standout for Canterbury in this year’s Harold Matthews Cup. Taupau can be an absolute handful. He’s got a strong carry and, because he attracts so many defenders, will create holes.

Solomone Saukuru (Westfields SHS)

Exciting utility with an outstanding footy brain. Saukuru has played at the centres, second row, front row – Westfields SHS even played him at fullback at one stage last year. He was a driving force behind the Harold Matts Magpies’ that made semi finals this year.

Utility star Solomone Saukuru (Photo: Bryden Sharp)Utility star Solomone Saukuru (Photo: Bryden Sharp)

Jack Cole (Orange HS)

Made the six-hour return journey most weeks to train with and play for Penrith’s SG Ball side this year. An unassuming half, with great maturity and patience for his age. Played well in NSWRL’s recent City v Country match.

Blake Metcalfe (The Hills SHS)

Electric fullback in the Raiders system. Captained Canberra’s Harold Matts sides in 2019 and 2020. The club rested Metcalfe from junior reps this year, ensuring the youngster could focus on finishing Year 12 in Sydney. The Hills SHS captain will be itching to test himself against the best.

Iverson Matai (Endeavour SHS)

A scheming halfback who dictates terms in the middle of the field with a maturity that belies his age, Matai is signed to Canterbury and played for their Harold Matthews for two years. The Milperra Colts junior has a handy kicking game and is sharp when he takes on the line. He’s been a standout for Endeavour SHS.

Iverson Matai has a great kicking game.Iverson Matai has a great kicking game.

Opens NSW Combined Independent Schools

Joseph Nohra (St Patrick’s College, Strathfield)

Played halfback for the Bunnies’ strong SG Ball side in 2021. Also a talented rugby union player. His strong kicking game will be on display at NSW Champs.

Lehi Hopoate (St Augustine’s College)

Son of John Hopoate. Played fullback for Manly’s Harold Matthews Cup side that finished the season undefeated. An easy mover who can create something out of nothing – give him an inch, he’ll take a mile.

Lehi Hopoate is the son of former NRL star John.Lehi Hopoate is the son of former NRL star John.

Jesse McLean (Newington College)

A powerful fullback and centre. Was a stand out for Penrith’s Harold Matthews Cup side. Has been balancing his junior reps and school rugby union commitments this year. An old head on young shoulders, McLean is known for his strong communication

Patrick Spence (Oakhill College)

Impressed at fullback for Parramatta’s Harold Matthews Cup side in 2021. A natural athlete who has also excelled at Aussie rules over the years.

Patrick Spence has excelled at two sports.Patrick Spence has excelled at two sports.

15s NSW Combined Catholic Colleges

Jaxon Edgar (St Dominic’s College Kingswood)

Capable of playing in the halves and at fullback. Plays a very competitive and tough style of footy. Brothers Penrith junior. Quiet-natured, but don’t underestimate Edgar.

Matthew Humphries (St Edwards College, East Gosford)

Bit of an unknown, but seriously impressed at trials and training. Humphries is a good organiser with a strong kicking game. He’s likely to start at five-eighth.

Finau Latu (Patrician Brothers Blacktown)

An exceptionally tough and hardworking middle. Likely to play lock. Might not be the biggest, but very athletic and tough for his size.

Tom Kirk and Toby Rodwell (Edmund Rice College, West Wollongong)

Watch out for these boys from Wollongong. Kirk is a tall, Tom Trbojevic-esque winger. Rodwell is a classy halfback, who has a lot of time with the ball. If Kirk pops up anywhere, it’ll be around Rodwell.

15s NSW Combined High Schools

Cyrus Stanley-Traill (Endeavour SHS)

Stanley is a famous name at Endeavour SHS, with five brothers coming through the rugby league nursery in recent years and two of them, Chase and Kyle, cracked the NRL. Stanley-Traill, nephew of the two former Dragons, is the next cab off the rank

Aaron Keppie (Picton HS)

A clever dummy half, the Picton junior’s tremendous defence stood out at the trials and his excellent service from hooker will help get his side on the front foot. A relative of Manly forward Sean Keppie.

Luke Laulilii (Westfields SHS)

The fullback is still developing as a ball-player but has been blessed with a tremendous running and a knack for hitting holes out wide. Westfields have produced many a quality footballer over the years and Laulilii could be the next on that famed production line.

Jayze Tuigamala (Endeavour SHS)

The total package when it comes to centres, Tuigamala has the athleticism to beat defenders, the speed to burn them off and the skill to create for others with his offloads. Could be one of the finds of the tournament.

Kade Reed (Illawarra SHS)

A clever halfback who hails from Wollongong, Reed dictates terms to his side with aplomb and already reads the game with a sophistication that belies his age. With a sharp kicking game to back it up, Reed will call the shots for CHS.

15s NSW Combined Independent Schools

Joe Walsh (St Augustine’s College)

Gifted organiser who will play five-eighth or fullback. The Narraweena Hawks junior has also excelled at the 15-man game. Walsh played for NSW 15s Gen Blue side in 2020 – one year young – and he recently earned selection in this year’s IS 16s rugby side.

Alex Conti (St Patrick‘s College Strathfield)

The Concord Burwood junior is part of Balmain’s 15s development squad. Conti is a halfback with a fantastic kicking game. Another kid excelling at both league and union.

Toby Brial (The Scots College)

The son of former Australian Wallaby Michael Brial. His older brother Joe is a development player for the Crusaders, Standing at 190cm young Brial is a big and imposing front rower with good footwork and ball skills.

Mitchell Woods (St Patrick’s College Strathfield)

Another talented cross-coder. Named Player of the Championship at the 2021 U15 NSW AFL Championships. Over the years, Woods has represented NSW in AFL and made CIS touch football teams. The young gun is currently in the Bulldogs’ development squad.

NSW Schools Championships 15s draw

Tue, Jun 22 10am NSWCHS v NSWCCC

Wed, Jun 23 10am NSWCIS v NSWCHS

Thu, Jun 24 10am NSWCCC v NSWCIS

NSW Schools Championships 18s draw

Tue Jun 22 12pm NSWCHS v NSWCCC

Wed Jun 23 12pm NSWCIS v NSWCHS

Thu Jun 24 12pm NSWCCC v NSWCIS

All matches will be live-streamed at dailytelegraph.com.au

ACTION PHOTO GALLERIES

DAY 3 ACTION PHOTO GALLERIES

Under 15’s NSWCCC v NSWCIS

Under 18’s NSWCCC v NSWCIS

DAY 2 ACTION PHOTO GALLERIES

Under 15’s NSWCHS v NSWCIS

Under 18’s NSWHSC v NSWCIS

DAY 1 ACTION PHOTO GALLERIES

Under 15’s NSWCCC v NSWCHS

Under 18’s NSWCCC v NSWCHS  

NRL star’s little brother creating big impression

Author : Joceyln Airth

Meet mini “Kapow”.

Although, you probably shouldn’t use the word “mini” to describe the 17-year-old younger brother of Sea Eagles’ enforcer Martin Taupau.

At around 188cm and 104kg, Junior Taupau was a standout for the Bulldogs in the recent Harold Matthews Cup.

Next week, the Endeavour SHS’ forward will run out for the Combined High Schools Opens side at the NSW School Championships – he’s bound to make an instant impact.

Junior Taupau is turning heads.Junior Taupau is turning heads.

“He’s quite quick, good on his feet, and he runs the ball very hard. That’s pleasing to see, considering he’s still Year 11 and 17-years-old,” Endeavour SHS coach Brad Kelly said.

Determined to attend the same school that his brother graduated from in 2008, and to play in the elite schoolboy competition, Taupau arrived at Endeavour this year.

“They’re both similar at this age, long arms and long legs. Obviously Martin has filled out since he finished school,” Kelly said.

“(Junior) has that same height that Marty had at this age and he has a fair bit of growing to do. He’s got size to gain, which is good for him.”

To play for Endeavour SHS, students must demonstrate good behaviour, complete all school assessments and record a minimum 90 per cent attendance rate.

Kelly said that Taupau has settled in exceptionally well.

Iverson Matai is playing in the NSW CHS Open side.Iverson Matai is playing in the NSW CHS Open side.

“He’s a really nice and polite kid. He’s taken to the school really well, he knew a few of the boys already from the Bulldogs,” Kelly said.

“We met with him earlier this year, when he first started. That was one thing that we drummed home to him, expectations of being in the school and the rugby league program. He’s been great since he’s been here.

On field, Taupau has been formidable for Endeavour – he was a handful for opponents in their first two NRL Schoolboy Cup clashes against Patrician Brothers Blacktown and The Hills SHS.

“(After the Blacktown game) he said he loved it. It’s great to see that he’s bought into our culture and jumped on board straight away” Kelly said.

Four other Endeavour SHS students have been named in the CHS side that will play next Tuesday – Iverson Matai, Lajuan Vito, Kyron Fekitoa and Luke Raymond.

Talented Smith excels in two sporting fields

Author :  Nick Campton

He’s been likened to Melbourne Storm star Brandon Smith, but before young Penrith hooker Riley Smith can hit the NRL he must choose between a career in rugby league or cricket.

Smith, who will line up for Combined Catholic Colleges at the Schools Championship, is a top tier talent in both sports and the St Dominic’s Year 12 student will have to make a choice between the Steeden and the Kookaburra before he enters the professional ranks.

Currently contracted to Penrith, where he played SG Ball this season, Smith has also represented Australia Under 17s in cricket, but the Panthers are putting no pressure on Smith to make a decision as he juggles the two sports along with his HSC studies.

Ryley Smith is being chased by Cricket NSW and the Penrith Panthers.Ryley Smith is being chased by Cricket NSW and the Penrith Panthers.

“We’ve had small discussions with him, but it’s something that, while he’s got all his football on and probably still making some cricket rep teams at the back end of the year, with his HSC as well, they’re conversations for him to have with his family,” said Penrith’s Elite Player Development Manager Ben Harden.

“We’d love to have him, obviously he’s a super talented player, great work ethic, good kid. Whatever he decides, he’ll be successful in.”

Smith is one of the new breed of rugby league hookers with the attributes to thrive in the breakneck speed of the modern game.

Capable of filling in as a middle forward, in the style of Melbourne’s star dummy half, Smith also boasts an exceptional kicking game out of dummy half.

“The way the game’s grown and the way Ryley’s tracking, we sort of assume he could transition into the first grade squad in the next few years, like most of our good young players,” Harden said.

Ryley Smith has plenty of strings to his bow.Ryley Smith has plenty of strings to his bow.

“Hooker’s definitely his first position, but he transitions into lock really well, with the game getting faster, not just HIAs, but 12 people on the field and six-again’s.

“He can be that Brandon Smith style. He’s short, low to the ground, aggressive and competes on everything.”

Aside from Smith, CCC boasts several of the best junior players in the state, including Canterbury centre Paul Alamoti and Penrith prop John Sagaga.

De La Salle Catholic College product Taj Brailey, younger brother of NRL stars Blayke and Jayden, will be another one to watch at hooker.

DAY 3 ACTION PHOTO GALLERIES

Under 15’s NSWCCC v NSWCIS

Under 18’s NSWCCC v NSWCIS

DAY 2 ACTION PHOTO GALLERIES

Under 15’s NSWCHS v NSWCIS

Under 18’s NSWHSC v NSWCIS

DAY 1 ACTION PHOTO GALLERIES

Under 15’s NSWCCC v NSWCHS

Under 18’s NSWCCC v NSWCHS  

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