Higgins and Lakai join the Lions for 2022

Two other talented teenagers have joined the Wellington Lions ahead of the 2022 Bunnings Warehouse NPC competition.

Peter Lakai and Riley Higgins have signed their first professional contracts with Wellington and will be looking to make their mark on the provincial scene.

The duo are the latest Wellington Rugby Academy graduates to join the Lions, joining 21 of their current teammates from the Wellington system.

While 19-year-old midfielder Higgins is yet to don the black and yellow jersey, 19-year-old loose forward Lakai joined the Lions squad in 2021 as injury cover, making his debut against Southland.

Crowley said he was thrilled to welcome Lakai and Higgins to the team.

“Peter and Riley are both talented young men. We look forward to their continued development, and I’m sure they will start running and are excited to step onto the pitch in the Lions shirt.

The pair become the second and third players to graduate from Wellington Academy’s Class of 2022, joining Oriental-Rongotai’s Sione Halalilo.

Wellington Rugby Academy director Rick Whatarau says the new signings come from a particularly impressive group of Academy players.

“Having left high school in 2020, both boys had strong 2021 seasons, before joining the Hurricanes in 2022. They progressed through the development path of Wellington U16 and U19, Hurricanes U18 and U20 and Nova Scotia. Zealand U20, to give them the tools to enter the game full time,” said Whatarau.

A physically imposing and powerful loose striker, Lakai, born in 2003, still has one more year of eligibility with the New Zealand U20s. He started his playing days at Avalon before joining Higgins at St Patrick’s Silverstream. From there, the couple progressed through Wellington Academy.

Crowley is set to name his full team for the upcoming 2022 Bunnings Warehouse NPC Contest on Monday, July 11.

Charles P. Patton