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Chiefs fullback reportedly being targeted by new NRL side

By Sam Smith
Shaun Stevenson. (Photo by Jeremy Ward/Photosport)

The Chiefs could be set to lose another player if rumours out of Australia are to be believed.

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The Hamilton-based Super Rugby Pacific side have already confirmed that four players from their 2022 campaign won’t be back next year, with Mitch Brown and Kaleb Trask heading to Japan and outside backs Jonah Lowe and Chase Tiatia signing for rival clubs.

According to NRL ‘mole’ Tony Adams, fullback-cum-wing Shaun Stevenson could also be heading offshore.

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Speaking on radio show SENZ Afternoons, Adams told host Mark Stafford that the rugby league’s newest club, the Dolphins, are targeting Stevenson as a marquee signing for the 2023 season.

“The dilemma here for the new NRL franchise which starts next year, the Dolphins, is that they just haven’t been able to land marquee players,” Adams said. “They’ve signed about 20 players (and) most of them are average first graders.

“They’re looking at guys who can break a game open and … (Stevenson) seems to fit the bill.

“They’re looking at him (but) I think a lot will depend on whether he makes this All Blacks squad which I believe is named in the next few days.”

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While Stevenson is unlikely to travel to Japan and the United Kingdom with the All Blacks, the dangerous outside back is certainly in contention for the new All Blacks XV side that will play games against the Barbarians and the Irish Wolfhounds in November.

Stevenson made his Chiefs debut in 2016 and has accumulated almost 70 caps for the franchise despite never locking down a role in the backline.

While the 25-year-old boasts unquestionable X-factor and is capable of creating something out of nothing, he has lacked consistency throughout his seven seasons with the Chiefs and struggled to hold down a spot either on the wing or at fullback.

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Stevenson made five appearances for the Chiefs this year, all in the No 14 jersey, and looked to be finding some career-best form when a knee injury curtailed his season. Following some clean-up surgery, Stevenson was one of the Maori All Blacks’ best performers against Ireland in July and has been back to his best for North Harbour in this year’s NPC, with the team set to face off against Auckland in Friday’s quarter-final.

A spot on the plane to the UK for the All Blacks XV’s inaugural tour is certainly within Stevenson’s grasp, especially if he can put together another big performance or two during the provincial finals.

Whether the Wayne Bennett-coached Dolphins are interested in his services of not, Stevenson is contracted with the Chiefs until the end of the 2023 season.

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