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Parramatta Eel tipped to become the next playmaking star for Kiwis

By AAP
(Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

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Each era of rugby league in New Zealand has been defined by a poster boy playmaker; from Stacey Jones to Benji Marshall and then Shaun Johnson.

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With news this week that Johnson was axed from Michael Maguire’s Test side following an underwhelming return to the Warriors, a new heir must be sought.

The most likely contender to take that mantle on may be Parramatta’s Dylan Brown.

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Brown is expected to make his New Zealand debut alongside Melbourne’s Jahrome Hughes in the halves when the Kiwis face Tonga in Auckland on Saturday.

The Eels’ playmaker has been in the NRL for over four years now, but is still just 21.

Asked about the prospect of becoming the face of the game in New Zealand to a new generation, Brown told AAP: “It’s exciting and a really big privilege.

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“The one thing that keeps me going in league is that I’m from Whangarei – the north.

“Hopefully me going and playing for the Kiwis allows more kids to take the side of league rather than union.

“Benji congratulated me just before I ran out (on Saturday against the Roosters) and I was like ‘far out’, he’s one of the greats.

“I’m not trying to do anything fancy, I’d just like to own my job and give a good account of myself.”

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Brown doesn’t have many memories of the Kiwis as a child, having grown up a union man.

And despite Parramatta’s impressive win on Saturday he failed to hide his displeasure at the Blues’ loss to the Crusaders in the Super Rugby Pacific final.

He has known for the best part of a month that he would be included in Maguire’s side when the Kiwis coach convened his spine players together.

Joey Manu looms as the fullback following Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s move to rugby union with Brandon Smith a shoo-in at hooker.

“He wanted to get a bit of chat going between us and that’s hard with just a week’s prep,” Brown said.

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“Apart from the World Cup Nines, I’ve never represented New Zealand in anything.

“I only played a few minutes because I hurt my back and missed the rest of the camp, so I missed out on that whole atmosphere.

“It’s cool that there are a few other Parra boys in Isaiah (Papalii) and Marata (Niukore) in there.”

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