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Maguire: Kiwis move past 'harsh' Asofa-Solomona ban

The Kiwis will support suspended Storm forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona through three end-of-season Tests but won't let it distract them from the task at hand, according to coach Michael Maguire.

With a Test against the Kangaroos in Wollongong this Friday followed by two against Great Britain in New Zealand in November, Maguire has a squad of 22 hungry players – including a couple of possible debutants.

"I'm going to support Nelson through this and the whole team is," Maguire told of the three-match ban handed to the Storm prop over an incident in Bali that, unfortunately for Maguire and the Kiwis, will impact the international part of the season.

"I have spoken to Nelson, he is very passionate about this jersey and I feel for him at the moment. You have got to ask how would you react in that situation and that is an Australian way and a New Zealand way that you look after our mates.

"I think it is harsh for what he did. Strong friendships are created in teams and a team is like your family. There is a very strong bond that you build and I think anyone would defend their family in certain situations.

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"You look after your family and he was looking after his family member, as we all would."

While Asofa-Solomona's absence left a huge hole both physically and figuratively, it provides an opportunity to someone else.

"I've got a number of great players coming in who will provide what it takes to win a game of rugby league," Maguire added.

"That is all this team is focused on now. We have all talked to Nelson and we will all support him through whatever he has to go through, just like any other Kiwi players who have had issues in the past."

Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves is one player who will definitely help shoulder the load in the Storm giant's absence.

"He is a big loss, it is a fairly big punishment but for us we have got a couple of guys who are stepping it is a chance for them," Waerea-Hargreaves said.

"It is what it is. There was always going to be a punishment and it just happened to fall on the Kiwis timeline. I think the Storm will be happy."

Maguire said it was a bonus most of the other squad members were able to blow the cobwebs out during the recent Downer World Cup 9s despite the disappointment of losing the final to Australia.

"To see a number of the younger guys come into the squad [was pleasing]," he said, with the likes of Bailey Simonsson, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Corey Harawira-Naera getting their first black and white jerseys ahead of likely impending senior Test debuts.

"I'm trying to build a wider squad to allow these younger guys to see the pathways of what we're trying to do at the Kiwi level so that was a real positive."

Maguire was not forthcoming as to how many of the squad of 22 would likely get a chance through the three Tests, nor how the three-into-two halves equation of captain Benji Marshall, Shaun Johnson and Kieran Foran would play out.

"We'll focus on the Australia game first then we'll look to what we do next. I don't look too much further than what we need to do on Friday," Maguire said.

"Kodi [Nikorima] has got the ability to play there too. Someone like Kieran, I took him away to the Tongan Test and as much as he didn't participate you could see the hunger to get another opportunity in the jersey.

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"The back end of his season has really started to show what we all know he's capable of and that's the reason why he's here."

Maguire suggested impressive Raiders fullback Nicoll-Klokstad was a strong chance of partnering Joey Manu in the centres given the injuries to Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Esan Marsters.

"He's been a centre in the past so he'd be well suited there," Maguire said.

"He performed really well for us in the Nines. After the first game he found his feet. For a lot of them the first game in the Nines, the connections between the players definitely grew."

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