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Bhana and Pewhairangi included in strong Auckland squad

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Former NRL player David Bhana and capped Irish international Api Pewhairangi are among those named in the Auckland premier squad to play Samoa Aukilani (Auckland) on June 1.

Bhana, who made seven NRL appearances for the Newcastle Knights in 2016, is back playing with his junior club the Northcote Tigers, while Pewhairangi has linked up with the Pt Chevalier Pirates after a successful stint in the UK with the London Broncos.

Twelve clubs are represented in coach Grant Pocklington's initial 28-man squad, which also sees 2018 SAS Fox Memorial Premiership Rookie of the Year Geronimo Doyle, and last year's second division Player of the Year Reuben Tolovae rewarded with selection.

The game will be played at Bert Henham Park, with free entry for fans as part of the Auckland Rugby League marking 110 years of existence.

The match will also be streamed live and free on aucklandleague.co.nz.

Pocklington said the strength of the SAS Fox Memorial Premiership and Crown Lift Trucks Fox Championship competitions so far this year meant there was a wide range of talent to pick from.

"We have selected on form, and some of this squad certainly picked itself, but there are also some very good footballers who have missed out," Pocklington said.

"The calibre this year I think is better than last year, which speaks to the quality of the competition.

"We wanted to make sure both our club players and Auckland players currently in the Vodafone Warriors system had a chance to be selected in this team."

Jethro Friend, who captained last year's squad to a 40-12 victory over the Tonga New Zealand Residents, is in line to take the field again, while the first division's top try-scorer last season, James Waterson, is set to make his Auckland debut.

The Auckland U18s and Mate Ma'a Tonga NZ U18s will face off in the curtain-raiser at Bert Henham Park ahead of the main game.

Auckland: Eiden Ackland (Mt Albert), David Bhana (Northcote), Geronimo Doyle (Otahuhu), Melino Fineanganofo (Mt Albert), Jethro Friend (Howick), Roydon Gillett (Howick), Richard Holani (Otahuhu), Carlos Hotene (Howick), Jamel Hunt (Papakura), Paulos Latu (Howick), Alifeleti Ngahe (Marist), Ethan Nukanuka (Otahuhu), Api Pewhairangi (Pt Chevalier), Preston Riki (Mt Albert), Kouma Samson (Pt Chevalier), Lewis Soosemea (Mangere East), Matiu Stone-Dunn (Northcote), Zac Tippins (Glenora), Sione Tongia (Pt Chevalier), Setu Tu (Otahuhu), Amoni Tufui (Mt Albert), Reuben Tolovae (Pukekohe), Solomon Vasuvulagi (Glenora), Johnny Vuetibau (Howick), King Vuniyayawa (Manurewa), Cole Waaka (Northcote), James Waterson (Northcote), Clayton Williams (Howick). Head coach: Grant Pocklington - assistant coach Jody Henry - assistant coach Louis Papali'i

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