Dallin Watene-Zelezniak named New Zealand captain

Drew Darbyshire

Penrith Panthers star Dallin Watene-Zelezniak will captain New Zealand this autumn.

The 23-year-old becomes one of the Kiwis’ youngest ever captains after being named to lead the Kiwis in their Trans-Tasman triple-header against Australia at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday.

Watene-Zelezniak emulates the achievement of his late grandfather Tipene (Steve) Watene, who is one of New Zealand rugby league’s most revered figures.

He was the first Maori to captain the Kiwis in 1936 and 1937 and is the only person who has represented the New Zealand rugby league side and then become a Member of Parliament.

“I was really humbled when Madge (Michael Maguire) offered me the chance to captain my country,” said Watene-Zelezniak.

“It’s a huge honour, especially following in my great grandfather’s steps.”

“Dallin lives the values we’re looking for and embodies the new direction we’re heading in with the Kiwis,” added New Zealand head coach Michael Maguire.

New Zealand face England in a three-match Test series this autumn, with the games taking place at KCOM Stadium, Elland Road and Anfield.