EXPERIENCE KEY FOR DEVELOPING NEXT GENERATION
12 December 2023
The Highlanders are proud to announce their four National Development Contract (NDC) players for 2024. These players will train full time with the Super Rugby Squad and experience professional rugby during the pre-season before settling into an individualised part-time programme for the duration of 2024.
The NDC contracts have been created to enable talented young players the opportunity to experience a professional environment and access the same services available to professional players to enhance their progression towards professional rugby. The New Zealand Rugby (NZR) initiative has been in existence for three years and previous recipients include current squad members Fabian Holland, Cameron Millar Jack Taylor, Ajay Faleafaga and Will Stodart.
Highlanders Talent Development Manager, Kane Jury, commented, “These players have been rewarded for their performances throughout the season and have worked extremely hard off the field to receive a National Development Contract (NDC). Their talent has been simmering away for some time (without national recognition) and at the recent New Zealand Under 19 camp their character, effort and performance could not go unnoticed.”
“This is another opportunity the players need to take with both hands to learn from the best management crew and players in our region. It is also great recognition for the Clubs and Provincial Unions for the time and energy they have put into them,” added Jury.
The Highlanders have also selected two players for their Wider Training Group who will join the squad fulltime for the 2024 season and those players are Rohan Wingham (prop/Otago) and Connor McLeod (halfback/Southland). Additionally, Will Stodart (loose forward/Otago) has been brought into the squad as a replacement player.
NDC Player Profiles:
A-One Lolofie (Zingari Richmond RFC, Otago): A product of Hastings Boys High School, A-One made the move to the Highlanders region to play for Otago in 2023. He is a mobile and powerful hooker and gained selection in the New Zealand Schools side in 2022. Unfortunately an injury sustained in round 2 of the 2023 local premier club competition saw him side-lined for the rest of the season. He was patient with his return to play and impressed at the New Zealand Under 19 Camp to be ranked as one of the top hookers in our country. A-One will be looking forward to learning as much as he can and bringing this to the field in 2024.
Moana Takataka (Kaikorai RFC, Otago): Moana is mobile and hardworking tighthead prop who has the ability to play the whole game. A local player who attended Otago Boys High School where he was a member of the 1st XV side for three years. Moana was called in as an injury replacement for New Zealand Under 20 during their two test match series in May 2023. Moana could be described as a sleeping giant, he has worked hard on his craft with the rugby opportunities he has earned and this will continue to accelerate his development.
Reuben Palmer (Dunedin RFC, Otago): At 197cm and 129kg Reuben has shown he has ability to be a physical presence on the field. He spent the season playing premier grade rugby and was one of the dominant locks in this competition. He has grown into becoming a line out jumper and caller, and he has leadership qualities that enable him to take people with him. Proud ex-student of Tauranga Boys College he captained the 1st XV in his final year where they were able to win the Moascar Cup for the first time in 27 years.
Josh Whaanga (Taieri RFC, Otago): Our second locally produced talent, Josh attended John McGlashan College and was part of the history making side that made the Top 4 1st XV Competition. Josh played over 50 games for the 1st XV after being capped as a Year 10 student. His form also saw him gain selection for the New Zealand Maori U18 side. He is a tall midfielder whose speed and skillset caused havoc in club rugby this season. Seen as one of the top performing midfielders in Otago, he was offered a training opportunity with the NPC side. He excelled in the preseason and played every game this year to be named Back of the Year.