SAN DIEGO – Kiwi blindside flanker (6) Jordan Manihera has signed a professional contract with the San Diego Legion of Major League Rugby.
The 25-year-old wrapped up a 2018 Mitre 10 Cup promotion campaign with Waikato Rugby Union in October and has been integrated into the Legion system by the coaching staff throughout 2019. An Auckland native, Manihera is in contention for selection to the Week 7 matchup with the Toronto Arrows on March 10 at Torero Stadium.
“I have enjoyed a solid week of training and am grateful for being coached under Rob Hoadley, Scott Murray, and Zack Test,” Manihera said. “It’s been great being able to support the team right from the start of the season from when I was back in New Zealand. Everyone has put in some awesome effort on and off the field to produce such dominant performances and results.
“Being able to watch the games live excited me even more to come over here and contribute where I can to add to the Legion’s successful start to the 2019 MLR season.”
Joining the ranks as the eldest member of a San Diego back row with an average age of under 24, Manihera brings a wealth of experience to the Legion as a Super Rugby nd New Zealand Under-20 alumnus. He stepped into leadership roles early, captaining Auckland’s North Harbour U20 side to a championship in 2012 ahead of selection to his country’s fourth-place 2013 IRB Junior World Championship U20 team less than a year later.
“My personal goals for the season are to help out where I can with knowledge and habits for not only guys like Drew Gaffney, Devin Short, and Psalm Wooching, but anything that will be of benefit for the team; and to nail our processes of moving towards winning the championship.
“The game plan suits our team perfectly and it goes to show, with some of the wins so far, that we are on our way to hitting our full potential.”
Manihera was only 20 years young when he scored two tries in eight ITM Cup starts for his provincial club, catching the eyes of Auckland Blues selectors for two Super Rugby appearances during the 2014 season. He returned to North Harbour before moving to Waikato ahead of the 2016 Championship season.
“Jordan’s pedigree, and the quality of people he has worked with, means that he will have a huge impact on our squad on and off the field,” Head Coach Rob Hoadley said of the newest addition to the second-ranked team in MLR. “We place a high value on the type of character we recruit, and Jordan certainly fits that mold.”
Three tries scored during the 2018 campaign understates the impact of Manihera on the Waikato team, which earned promotion to the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup Premiership prior to the forward’s departure. Manihera’s international call-up to the historic New Zealand Maori All Blacks for a 2017 match against Canada could have been a precursor to his MLR initiation, with a number of Canadians included on the Toronto Arrows 2019 roster.
“For me a big appeal of playing for the Legion was seeing how much growth is possible with the sport of rugby union in America,” Manihera said. “The growth of rugby is heading in the right direction here. This is shown, obviously, with the Arrows joining the competition this year, and for next year you have teams joining MLR from New England, Washington D.C., and Atlanta. So, to be a part of the competition while it’s in its early stages excites me a lot.”
The Legion Manihera now calls family is returning to action in Week 7 following the first bye week of the season, which offered respite for a team that played more than 400 minutes in 26 days. San Diego takes on the Arrows Sunday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m. PT. Matchday tickets at Torero Stadium are available here. Learn more about Jordan Manihera and the other members of the Legion squad here.