Four Kiwi-born league players are chasing their shot at the big time as part of a new league reality television series, The NRL Rookie.

Chosen from more than 1200 applicants, the New Zealand contingent are part of a group of 28 hopefuls from eight different nationalities, working towards the grand prize, with the last player standing winning a guaranteed NRL contract.

Over 10 weeks, the group are assessed and one player is cut each episode by NRL Rookie head coach, former Australia and NSW State of Origin captain and Channel Nine commentator, Brad Fittler, and his assistants, former internationals and club teammates, Mark Geyer and Adrian Lam.

The series culminates with the live finale attended by all 16 NRL clubs to decide who becomes The NRL Rookie for 2016.


In his role as defence coach, former Penrith enforcer Geyer was impressed by the commitment shown by the Kiwi candidates.

While aiming to showcase their playing ability, the series is propelled by the players' varied back stories, with many facing their last shot at a professional league career.

"The Kiwis are very well represented," said Geyer. "In particular, two young blokes, Reece Joyce and Roydon Gillett. One [Joyce] was a prodigy union player who was basically caught up on the wrong side of the tracks, had a couple of kids at a young age, and now at 24 he decided to have another go.

"He's a good young man who has admitted his faults and got on with life and was very impressive. Gillett was another one who was like the father figure of the group. They were both extremely talented.

"Gary-John Hill, a Kiwi boy living in Perth, is a front-rower and they all acquitted themselves brilliantly."

Long-time fans of the game will also recognise some familiar surnames with Jesse Shearer, son of former Queensland and Kangaroos wing Dale, and Jordan Martin, son of ex-Canberra Raiders winger Paul, also among the rookie squad.

The first episode of The NRL Rookie airs on TVNZ's Duke channel tonight at 9.45.