A 15-year-old boy, Armani Wetini-Ngaropo (Te Rarawa, Te Arawa), has signed with the Gold Coast Titans until the end of 2024. It is a dream come true for the Auckland Boys Grammar student.
Turning down offers from both the Warriors and Bulldogs, Armani and his whānau decided this was the right move.
“It was a dream since I was little. I feel blessed to get this opportunity to develop and learn my game in Australia,” he said.
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Benji Marshall and David Fifita, Ngaropo has secured a scholarship to join Keebra Park High School's prestigious Rugby League Academy from 2022 onward and will join the Burleigh Bears Cyril Connell Cup Squad. He says the move will help refine his skills to set him on the path to success
“I need to get as fit as I can and stronger and to work on my kicking game as well,” he said
For the past 18 months he’s been a part of the junior Warriors development squad learning under league greats like his relative and veteran league star Adam Blair who shares whakapapa links back to Panguru in the Far North.
“It's been good, it has improved my game. We have Adam Blair there and some other legends like Stacey Jones and Tony Iro.”
“They go through everything step by step, which helps heaps with improving my game.”
Of Māori, Sāmoan and Cook Islands descent, Armani sees the importance of representing his culture on the international stage and the many opportunities that come with his whakapapa.
“It's important to know who you come from to know where you’re going. I’m proud to be Cook Island and Māori. I love representing my culture through rugby league because it gives me other opportunities as well”
Armani says his success wouldn’t have been possible without the love and tautoko of his parents Corey and Davina and wider whānau. He does attribute his success to his late grandfather Nelson Ngaropo who died in 2017.
“I miss my Papa, he passed a couple of years ago and I wish he were here to see me succeed,” he said
His mum, Davina, is proud of his achievements but says he’s put in the hard yards, and now they’ve started to pay off.
“With Amarni, he’s so dedicated. Out of the three, he’s probably the most organised.”
“He wakes up at 5 oclock in the morning and he’s training until 6am then he’s off to school at 7.30am then he’s off to training again. So that's how the past two years have been, which has got him where he is today,” she said.
With the Delta outbreak here and in Australia affecting travel, it's unknown when he will depart his homeland of Aotearoa to Australia but 'all going well' is likely to be in January 2022