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Tepai Moeroa make his National Rugby League debut for Parramatta Eels against the Warriors in New Zealand on Saturday, with the Chiefs and New South Wales Waratahs reportedly keen to lure him back to rugby union.
The Sydney youngster played for the 2012 and 2013 Australian Schoolboys rugby teams, featuring strongly in the 2012 tour to Fiji and New Zealand on which Australia claimed only their second win against New Zealand Schools in New Zealand while becoming the first team to beat Fiji, New Zealand, Tonga and Samoa in the same year. He subsequently also played for Australia’s silver medal-winning Sevens team at the 2013 Youth Olympics in Sydney
But the national age group shot put champion, who was also selected as a schoolboy to play rugby league for New South Wales against Queensland in the 16- and 18-years age groups, when he had to withdraw from the squads because of his rugby commitments, signed an NRL contract with the Eels despite the best intentions of the Waratahs.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said at the time: ”There is no way rugby can compete with league on a financial front at that level. At the moment we’re relying very much on our schools and they can’t do it all. We’re losing too many of our quality kids out there. What we have to show is that we have a clear pathway so we can say to them that in two years, if they play well enough, there is a spot for them at senior level.”
Moeroa, 18, starred as a centre in union but, now weighing 101kg and standing 188cm, he will feature in the Eels pack having not featured in the match-day squad named originally by coach Brad Arthur. He also already drawn comparisons with Sonny Bill Williams, and no doubt the Eels, Chiefs and Waratahs will look to see him add to his compilation of breaks, offloads, tries and big hits that has made both codes take notice.
Rugby"s "next big thing" set for NRL debut