New Zealand Rugby League

Date: 4/10/18

Vodafone Warriors prop Agnatius Paasi and utility back Peta Hiku have been added to the squad for the New Zealand Kiwis’ four-Test end of season campaign opening with the Trans-Tasman Triple Header clash against the Kangaroos at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday, October 13.

Paasi (26) and experienced 11-Test Kiwi Hiku (25) join clubmate Isaiah Papali’i as replacements.

Papali’i was brought in on Monday after Melbourne prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona (ankle) and Sydney Roosters interchange forward Zane Tetavano (biceps) were ruled out after picking up injuries in Sunday night’s NRL grand final at ANZ Stadium.

That left the 24th spot in the touring party to be filled while yesterday Penrith’s Bulldogs-bound second rower Corey Harawira-Naera was also forced out with a groin injury.

“It’s really disappointing for Nelson, Zane and Corey who were all so keen to be involved, especially Zane and Corey who were in line to make their debuts,” said head coach Michael Maguire.

“But it’s exciting now for Isaiah and Agnatius who have the chance to debut and also for Peta to again be part of the Kiwis. They’ve all had strong seasons for the Warriors and we are thrilled to be able to call on them.”

It means the 24-strong touring party still includes five newcomers to the national squad in Melbourne hooker Brandon Smith, Storm utility back Jahrome Hughes and Sydney Roosters centre Joseph Manu plus Paasi and Papali’i.

Paasi, Papali’i and Hiku were all major contributors as the Vodafone Warriors returned to the NRL finals this season for the for the first time since 2011.

Paasi, who made one appearance for the Warriors in 2014, spent three seasons with the Gold Coast Titans from 2015-2017 before returning to Mount Smart Stadium this year. A first-choice starter after coming into the side in the third round, he then played every game lifting his career tally to 78 games. He averaged 40 minutes a match, 101 metres, 38 post-contact metres and 22 tackles while scoring three tries.

Hiku also returned home this year after having stints with Manly (2013-2015) and Penrith (2016-2017) before joining Warrington in the English Super League in 2017.

After starting 2018 in the centres he was later used at fullback, on the wing and at standoff across 22 appearances in a season in which he brought up his 100th NRL appearance. Scoring four tries, he finished the season with eight try assists, six line breaks and eight line break assists while averaging 113 metres, 43 post-contact metres and 13 tackles a game.

The Kiwis assemble in Auckland on Saturday.