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5 players to watch: Waikato

Tuesday, August 6, 2019    allblacks.com    

Dwayne Sweeney
A bona fide legend of Waikato rugby, 34-year-old utility back Dwayne Sweeney is set to bring up his 100th cap for Waikato during the 2019 season. Sweeney debuted for Waikato way back in 2002 and played until 2011 before switching to Japan’s Top League for five seasons. He returned to the Mooloos in 2017 and has been a constant presence in their squad since then. A genuine leader and elusive ball-runner, Sweeney has lost none of the game-breaking ability that made him a fan favourite over a decade ago. 

Solomon Alaimalo
Mooloo fans would have rejoiced when Solomon Alaimalo decided to return to Waikato colours after a season with the Tasman Mako. Simply put, there is no better runner from broken-play or finisher in the Mitre 10 Cup than the electric Alaimalo. The flying fullback’s season has been hampered by injury but showed his class in Super Rugby last year with a nomination for the Super Rugby player of the year alongside Matt Todd and Richie Mo’unga.
Quinn Tupaea
One of the breakout stars of Mitre 10 Cup 2018, 20-year-old Quinn Tupaea will be eager to show that his first-year heroics were no fluke when he returns for Waikato this season. An electric ball-runner, Tupaea crossed for seven tries in 2018 and made the No 13 jersey his own. Unlucky to miss out on a Super Rugby contract, Tupaea will want to step his play up to another level and make his case for a spot in the Chiefs squad undeniable. 

Josh Iosefa-Scott
Josh Iosefa-Scott is a powerhouse prop who has made steady progress since his Waikato debut in 2016. The Melville Rugby Club product is renowned for his strong scrummaging and is deceptively agile at 130kgs. Iosefa-Scott impressed in limited minutes with the Highlanders in 2019 and will be looking to build on that experience in the Mitre 10 Cup this year.

Fletcher Smith
Able to play either first five-eighth or fullback, Fletcher Smith is one of the most promising playmakers on the domestic scene. Smith was a key cog in Waikato’s Championship success last year with his tactical play, distribution skills and sharp goal kicking all contributing strongly to the Mooloos stellar season. A season under the wing of Beauden Barrett at the Hurricanes will have set up Smith for big Mitre 10 Cup campaign with Waikato.