Kalani Going has become the second Northlander in a week to be named to lead a national team after being chosen as captain of the New Zealand Kiwis A side to face Mate Ma’a Tonga A at Eden Park on Saturday.
The 26-year-old follows in the footsteps of Kohukohu-raised James Fisher-Harris who was unveiled on Sunday as the Kiwis’ new captain for their Pacific Championships campaign starting against Toa Samoa on Saturday.
The proud Northlanders were both opponents and teammates in their younger years when Going was at Kamo High School and Fisher-Harris attended Whangarei Boys’ High School.
This week they have been brought together as brothers in arms alongside 35 other players in a camp that’s the first of its kind in New Zealand rugby league history.
For Going the appointment as captain adds another layer to an extraordinary past 12 months.
It has seen him go from mliking cows on the family farm to making his NRL debut with the One New Zealand Warriors, selection in the New Zealand Kiwis A squad and now the captain’s job as well.
A standout as his club’s captain in the New South Wales Cup, he finished the season by being named the One New Zealand Warriors’ NSW Cup Player of the Year and also made the NSW Cup Team of the Year.
Going will lead a Kiwis A side which boasts players with solid NRL experience and a host of the country’s most promising prospects.
He has been named at loose forward in a pack which includes Canberra’s former Kiwi hooker Danny Levi and Māori All Stars front rowers Pasami Saulo (Canberra) and Wiremu Greig (Parramatta). Halfback Zach Dockar-Clay (Sydney Roosters) and utility Asu Kepoaa also bank significant experience.
Named in the centres are 2019 Kiwi World Nines representative Bailey Simonsson (Parramatta) and Rocco Berry (One New Zealand Warriors), who has just come off his best NRL season so far; their fathers are both former All Blacks (Paul Simonsson and Marty Berry).
The side is packed with NRL rookies.
Apart from Going, winger and former All Black Sevens player Will Warbrick established himself in his debut season with Melbourne while others to make their maiden appearances this year have been fullback Keano Kini (Gold Coast), winger Ali Leiataua (One New Zealand Warriors), standoff Taine Tuaupiki (One New Zealand Warriors), second rower Jack Howarth (Melbourne) and bench forwards Paul Roache (One New Zealand Warriors) and Jack Chan (Melbourne). Canberra’s Trey Mooney, listed as 18th man, is also a rookie, his debut last year being his sole appearance before had added four games this season.
Second rower Jacob Laban (One New Zealand Warriors) is yet to make his first-grade debut as is giant bench forward Benjamin Te Kura (Brisbane) and 19th man Tanner Stowers-Smith (One New Zealand Warriors).
NZ KIWIS A v MATE MA’A TONGA A
EDEN PARK, AUCKLAND
1.30PM, SATURDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2023
NO. PLAYERS NAME CLUB
1 KEANO KINI Gold Coast
2 WILLIAM WARBRICK Melbourne
3 ROCCO BERRY One New Zealand Warriors
4 BAILEY SIMONSSON Parramatta
5 ALI LEIATAUA One New Zealand Warriors
6 TAINE TUAUPIKI One New Zealand Warriors
7 ZACH DOCKAR-CLAY Sydney Roosters
8 PASAMI SAULO Canberra
9 DANNY LEVI Canberra
10 WIREMU GREIG Parramatta
11 JACK HOWARTH Melbourne
12 JACOB LABAN One New Zealand Warriors
13 KALANI GOING One New Zealand Warriors
14 PAUL ROACHE One New Zealand Warriors
15 JOE CHAN Melbourne
16 BENJAMIN TE KURA Brisbane
17 ASU KEPAOA Wests Tigers
18 TREY MOONEY Canberra
19 TANNER STOWERS-SMITH One New Zealand Warriors
COACH NATHAN CAYLESS