Jared Waerea-Hargreaves has been named in a preliminary New Zealand squad for the Pacific Championships – a move which could potentially wipe out his mammoth suspension and free him for the Roosters’ Las Vegas season opener next year.
Waerea-Hargreaves, who missed the Roosters’ finals campaign after being banned for seven matches due to two separate offences in a spiteful round-26 clash against Wests Tigers, will wait on a ruling from NRL judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew on when he can return to the field.
While it was considered unlikely Waerea-Hargreaves would have been selected even if he wasn’t banned given the Kiwis’ forward depth, the New Zealand Rugby League has submitted the enforcer’s name to tournament officials as part of a 30-man preliminary squad.
Kiwis coach Michael Maguire is spoilt for choice when it comes to front-rowers, with the likes of James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota, Joseph Tapine and Nelson Asofa-Solomona competing for the position. But Waerea-Hargreaves’ experience also makes him an attractive option for last year’s World Cup semi-finalists.
Waerea-Hargreaves is no chance of featuring in the Pacific Championships Tests against Australia and Samoa, because he will be serving his NRL suspension, but if New Zealand make the final he could submit to have the three matches counted towards his ban.
New Zealand Rugby League chief executive Greg Peters confirmed Waerea-Hargreaves’ name was on the extended list of players submitted to tournament organisers.
The veteran was also part of their World Cup squad last year despite missing the opening two games of the tournament through another NRL suspension.
“If he wasn’t suspended, New Zealand would have selected him, and he would have been in our squad,” Peters said.