Ngāi Tahu youngster lands junior Newcastle Knights contract

Te Kaio Cranwell. Photo: Bryden Sharp / NSWRL

After a time in Australia with the junior Newcastle Knights, a Ngāi Tahu rangatahi has firmly set his sights on an NRL career with the hope of making the Kiwis one day.

“It’s been hard but it’s what I need to do to make it,” says 18-year-old Te Kaio Cranwell, from Christchurch who has played rugby league since he was five-years-old.

Cranwell first played for The Northern Bulldogs Rugby League Club in Kaiapoi, before spending his final four years with the Linwood Keas.

Cranwell played in the 2023 Nationals as a member of the under 20s Southern Zone Scorpions. After taking home the award for most valuable player at that tournament, scouts from the Newcastle Knights noticed him and extended an offer of a contract.

He relocated to Australia in November 2023 following that competition, and he recently concluded his rookie campaign as a junior Knights team player in the New South Wales Sg Ball Competition.

“Leaving my family at the airport was pretty emotional and it took me about a month to settle in and find friends but now I really enjoy the lifestyle,” says Cranwell.

Te Kaio with his whānau. Photo: Supplied

Te Kaio, whose first language is Māori, is also studying Exercise and Sport Science at the University of Newcastle, despite no Māori culture being involved, he loves that it is related to sports.

“It’s challenging that there are no Māori aspects to it, but they couldn’t offer something like this to me back in New Zealand,” he says.

Te Kaio with teammates. Photo: Supplied

Keela Atkinson-Cranwell, his mother, notes that despite his numerous life transitions, they have made an effort to be sincere and supportive.

“It’s a whole new world for him and not being there to navigate him has been hard,” says Atkinson-Cranwell.

“He has become more independent and has really started to appreciate the small things,” she says.

Te Kaio is focused on earning a spot in the U21 Jersey Flegg Cup for the upcoming season, but he isn’t going to stop working for his dream of playing in the NRL and for the Kiwis.

- Tahu News