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Remember the Name Etene Nanai; He Could Well Be the Future of NZ Rugby League

Circle today in your diary; the day you heard the name Etene Nanai for the first time.

Photo credit: Etene Nanai Instagram Account.

Circle today in your diary; the day you heard the name Etene Nanai for the first time. It will not be the last.

It has been announced that Nanai - one of New Zealand's hottest cross-code stars - has signed up with the Warriors on a youth contract through until the end of 2019. Despite the fact Nanai plays rugby union for St Kentigen's College in Auckland, the Warriors entered into battle with the Waikato Chiefs for the young centre's signature - and won out.


Warriors development manager Tony Iro admitted to the New Zealand Herald that first-grade coach Stephen Kearney wanted to "unleash" Nanai - a cousin of superstar fullback and club captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck - had the NRL Nines earlier this year, but he was ineligible due to age restrictions.

Videos of Nanai in action have gone viral in New Zealand, prompting heightened interest by teams outside the Warriors and Chiefs. New Zealand's High Top 200 website, which unofficially ranks the best Kiwi schoolboy rugby players, named in the country's third best secondary school player.

"He's a talented and smart kid and pretty well balanced," Iro told the NZ Herald, describing Nanai. "He's quick, got good feet and a good footy sense as well, so he's got all the attributes you need.

"He'll be a good player. He spent a little bit of time with the NRL side just before Christmas and did some training but he'll just stay with his First XV side this year before joining us in the preseason."

Warriors back rower Josh Hoffman said that, while training with the first-grade team, Nanai turned heads with his ability to out-turn mercurial halfback Shaun Johnson.

"He stood out when he gave Shaun a bit of his own back," the former Storm veteran told NZ Herald. "We were doing a one- on-one defensive drill and he turned Shaun inside out so that certainly raised a few eyebrows. I don't think he could wipe the smile off his face after that."

Though only 17, Iro said that there is a chance Nanai will played for the Warriors Under-20s later this year once his high school rugby commitments are finished. If he does, it'll be worth tuning in to see how he goes: this kid seems legit.