NRL finalists bulk out Kiwis squad
National Rugby League top eight sides provide 31 of the 43 players today named in the Kiwis train-on squad to prepare for the Four Nations tournament and a one-off test against Samoa in October-November.
The New Zealand Warriors have the biggest contingent with 11 players while the Sydney Roosters have six players included.
All 17 players used in this year's Anzac test against Australia along with 18th man Alex Glenn have been named along with 2008 World Cup-winning Kiwis Thomas Leuluai, of Wigan, and Greg Eastwood, of Leeds, the only players included from English Super League sides.
Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney said he and fellow selectors Howie Tamati, Tony Iro and Tawera Nikau were excited so many contenders were in good form at the business end of the NRL season.
"The fact we have so many of the train-on squad involved in finals football starting this weekend is a major boost for us," he said.
"It has to be beneficial having such a significant number with the chance of going well into the finals, perhaps all the way to the grand final.
"As selectors we're encouraged by the spread and depth we have in all positions and believe we are in a good position to select a strong squad for the Four Nations in October."
New Zealand and Australia are to host the Four Nations tournament also featuring England and Papua New Guinea.
Of the 43 players named, 12 are yet to make their New Zealand debuts.
Warriors winger Kevin Locke and South Sydney back rower Eddy Pettybourne were both in the Kiwis' official touring party for last year's Four Nations in England and France but didn't make it on to the field while Warriors second rower Ukuma Ta'ai and Manly winger Tony Williams have both previously represented Tonga.
Their Kiwis eligibility has yet to be confirmed with the Rugby League International Federation.
The other eight players yet to play for the Kiwis are Brisbane duo Alex Glenn and Antonio Winterstein, Penrith prop Sam McKendry, South Sydney winger Fetuli Talanoa, young Sydney Roosters pair Joseph Leilua and Mose Masoe and Warriors forwards Lewis Brown and Russell Packer.
Thirteen of the 16 NRL clubs have players included in the squad and the only clubs without representation are North Queensland, Gold Coast and Cronulla.
The Kiwis begin their end-of-season international programme against Samoa in Auckland on October 16.
Their Four Nations tests encounters are against England in Wellington on October 23, Papua New Guinea in Rotorua on October 30 and Australia in Auckland on November 6. The Four Nations final is in Brisbane on November 13.
The final Kiwis squad are due to be named a few days after the NRL grand final on October 3.
Kiwis train-on squad: Alex Glenn, Antonio Winterstein (Brisbane Broncos); Bryson Goodwin, Ben Roberts (Canterbury Bankstown); Bronson Harrison (Canberra Raiders); Greg Eastwood (Leeds Rhinos); Kieran Foran, Steve Matai, Tony Williams (Manly); Adam Blair, Sika Manu (Melbourne Storm); Junior Sa'u, Zeb Taia (Newcastle Knights); Krisnan Inu, Fuifui Moimoi (Parramatta); Sam McKendry, Frank Pritchard (Penrith); Nathan Fien, Jason Nightingale, Jeremy Smith (St George Illawarra); Roy Asotasi, Issac Luke, Eddy Pettybourne, Fetuli Talanoa (South Sydney); Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Joseph Leilua, Mose Masoe, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sam Perrett, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters); Lewis Brown, Aaron Heremaia, Lance Hohaia, Kevin Locke, Simon Mannering, Ben Matulino, Russell Packer, Sam Rapira, Jerome Ropati, Ukuma Ta'ai, Manu Vatuvei (New Zealand Warriors); Benji Marshall (Wests Tigers); Thomas Leuluai (Wigan Warriors).