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MEET THE TEAM: Caleb Aekins

7th August 2017, 10:40

MEET THE TEAM: Caleb Aekins

Penrith Panthers' Caleb Aekins is the latest player to feature in our MEET THE TEAM series as we countdown to Rugby League World Cup 2017.

Although Aekins is currently plying his trade in Australia, he grew up in Otaika, which is in the Northland region of New Zealand. 

A Whangarei Boys' High School captain, he first took to a rugby pitch at the age of five and often played in both codes at the same time. 

As well as featuring for Hikurangi Stags and Otaika Eagles as a junior, he represented the Northern Swords, Northland's representative side, for three years. 

It was in 2015, at the age of 17, that Aekins' move across the water to Australia came about, as he signed a deal with NRL club Penrith Panthers.

Caleb celebrates a Penrith try with his teammates

The 19-year-old was given his first taste of U20s action with the Panthers midway through 2016, when he lined-up against Canberra Raiders. 

During his first year, he predominantly played in the centres and made 15 appearances in all for Penrith's Holden Cup winning side, crossing for five tries in the process. 

This season, though, he has switched to fullback and featured in all but two matches since the opening round of the Holden Cup.

In his 20 appearances to date in 2017, he has chipped in with six tries. 

"I'm happy with how I'm playing," Aekins said. 

"Last year was my first year playing U20s and I think I'm doing a lot better this year."

Aekins is one of two Penrith players to be called-up by Wales, as winger Daniel Brown has also been included in John Kear's 38-man train-on squad for Rugby League World Cup 2017.

"Me and Danny are good mates off the field, as well as playing together on it," he said. 

"If we were both to make the final World Cup squad, it'll be good to have a familiar face around.

Caleb makes a break in a match against Canterbury Bulldogs

"I have had a look into [the squad that has been announced].

"I don't know any of the players personally, but I have some friends who do and they say that they're all a really good group of blokes."

If he features, the World Cup will be by far the biggest career experience to date for the New Zealand-born fullback, who qualifies to play for Wales through his grandparents.

"I've always wanted to represent my country, whether that be New Zealand or Wales," Aekins said. 

"I've already been over and visited Wales.

"My grandfather passed away recently, so it would mean a lot to me to represent Wales. 

"The World Cup will be the biggest stage that I've ever played on and no doubt it will be the toughest footy. 

"It would be an awesome experience for me to play for Wales in a World Cup."

KEY STATS

Name: Caleb Aekins

Position: Fullback

Current club: Penrith Panthers

Junior club: Otaika Eagles

Eligibility: Otaika, New Zealand. Eligible through his grandparents

Date of birth: 21/11/1997

 

YOU CAN FOLLOW CALEB ON INSTAGRAM: @calebaekins

 

Wales' matches in their Rugby League World Cup 2017 group are as follows:

DATE

FIXTURE

VENUE

October 28

PAPUA NEW GUINEA V WALES

Sir John Guise Stadium, Port Moresby

November 5

FIJI V WALES

Townsville Stadium 

November 12

WALES V IRELAND

Perth Rectangular Stadium

 

Get behind Wales at Rugby League World Cup 2017 by purchasing the new kit. Take a look at the selection of merchandise on the online shop HERE.

 

Article by Ryan Gould

Images from Caleb Aekins