Hawaiki Roa Men’s got back on top of the mountain, as their community dominated Harmony Cup 5. U16s Boys, Women’s and Men’s all came away with the blocks of wood, as the Men’s defied some of their doubters with a 16-14 victory over a highly fancied Indigenous team. Full credit to the Indigenous side, who were the favorites for most of the tournament, but they couldn’t overcome a hungry Hawaiki Roa side, who scored in the final 30 seconds to send their supporters crazy and on their way to their third title.
And although there were many players who could be picked in both sides from all the men’s 19 teams and 45 games,the votes and opininos have been tallied and would like to present the NRL WA Harmony Cup 5 Men’s team of the tournament.
The Men’s side, is a testament to not just speed and devastating try scorers, but the men who allow the speed men to make it all happen, along with the ability to keep your head when the games are on the line. Only 2 members of this side were in the last team of the tournament, which goes to show just how strong the competition is, especially to only pick 10 people.
- Josh Benjamin – Indigenous (C)
Hard to deny the first entry on this list. The Indigenous captain was a tyro for his side throughout the weekend. A threat on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, he has amazing leg speed and footwork for an edge backrower and showed his ability to mix it with the big and fast men alike. A noted try scorer, he led his side with maturity and calmness which comes with great experience. Unbeaten until the grand final, he was an easy selection to head up the side.
- Paora Kemp – Hawaiki Roa – Maori
Class and Time. All of the good players have it, and Paora was crucial in Hawaiki’s surge to the top of the podium this year. A fleet footed fullback in the regular game, his skillset and playmaking ability was sorely needed this year as the Roa looked to get the title back. Quicker and faster than he looks, he also possesses a great defensive mind, normally as the last man or sweeper for the Maori team, as evidenced by his try savers all weekend
- Kauri Cudd – Ngati Kahungunu – Maori
The number 23 from the purple Maori team. That seemed to be the call from players, coaches and spectators alike over the weekend. As the unfancied Maori side swept to an unlikely semi final birth for the weekend, Kauri was in the thick of everything that they did. Seeming like a limited numbers specialist, his ability to stay alive in every play he was on the field was crucial to the Kahungunu cause. Strong, fast and fit, he was a constant menace to every side.
- Blake Hignett – Hawaiki Roa – Maori
Another dominant performance from the Roa middles, Hignett was in everything. Comfortable in all forms of the game, and also touch football, Hignett possesses a skill set built for limited numbers rugby league. Fast, with great footwork and a show and go that would make camera men miss the action, he was part of the backbone that allowed the Roa to capture yet another title along with Kemp and his brother Kerrod. Nudging out his brother for a spot, he is a part of a worthy team of the tournament.
- Malai Tuifagalele – Western Fijians – Fiji
While Nine’s rugby league is generally dominated by fleet-footed ball players, you still need big men who can hold their own. And Malai was devastating for the flying Fijians over the weekend. Complete with a flash of blonde hair, the big man was all power and speed, bumping off defenders with ease. Possessing an amazing offload, and a one handed carry that could make Sonny Bill Williams impressed, he ran roughshod over teams on the weekend in a devastating display of power.
- Ben Taylor – Great Britain
One of the 2 players selected from a non semi-final team, Tails was a part of one of the most dangerous outfits of the weekend. Seeing off Fiji in their pool and 30 seconds from knocking out the eventual champions in Hawaiki Roa in the Quarter Final, the boys from the North ended up sending a serious message for future tournaments that “Winter Is Coming”. Ben is fast, strong and possesses a true leader mentality and a never give up attitude that showed in every facet over the weekend. Just shaded the likes of Keelyn Tuuta-Edwards, Paasi Fine & compatriot Dave Wilson as premiere forward rotations.
- Joseph Simpkins – Te Puru – Maori
The second player selected from a non semi-final team, Te Puru were a story side of the tournament in Harmony Cup 4, but this year they came back to the pack slightly. Still bowing out at the same stage, they were convincingly beaten by a tough Indigenous side, but Simpkins was dynamic in all his play. Smart with good speed and acceleration, his sleight of hand, decision making and kicking game was epic over the weekend. Joins his sister Macey as the first brother/sister duo in our teams of the tournament. As a strong setup player, beats out Phoenix Paeu, River Colman & Andrew Jeffrey for a spot on this list.
- Kainoa Gudgeon – Indigenous – 2nd Selection
Beating out his brother AJ for a spot in this side, Kainoa is a player that just makes things happen. Fast and incredibly strong, his ability to play off the cuff and spot an opportunity is a highlight of his play in any game at any time. Seems to be the type of player that you always have to stay alive with, he is actually scary even if you are on his team with his impossible to predict play. One of only 2 second selections in team of the tournament, he is simply a class above in most games.
- Manihera Eden – Hawaiki Roa – Maori
While not the biggest player ever, Manihera is a devastating finisher and probably one of the worst matchups ever one on one. Fast and so strong with a low centre of gravity, his ability to shrug players off and score tries that others wouldn’t finds him our final player selection in the team of the tournament. Beating out acknowledge finishers such Luke Turner, Sisa Waqa, Luke Goodwin and Tye Saus for our final spot is a huge compliment to just how strong the tournament is year in, year out.
Coach & Player – Delane Edwards – Hawaiki Roa – Maori – 2nd Selection
The conductor, maestro and wizard of the Hawaiki Roa deserves his spot on his list. Seemingly having lost some of their aura after a semi-final exit in Harmony Cup 5, the Roa came in with a little less hype about them as in previous years. But Edwards had a point to prove and got his side fitter and hungrier that they had been in previous years. With a signature style which promotes skill and ball movement, Roa embodies Delane as a coach and player. A second selection in team of the tournament was inevitable for Delane, and easily could have been as a player, and we may have gotten lucky he could be selected here. A true leader and deserved member of this side.
Congratulations to all the above, but again this list could have had 80 players on it. Well done to all players over the weekend, and we hope to see you back in Harmony Cup 6.