NRL 2020: Warriors rookie Jamayne Taunoa-Brown out to create own legacy

As a kid growing up in Melbourne, NZ Warriors rookie Jamayne Taunoa-Brown would often go to AAMI Park with his family to watch the Storm in action. 

One of his favourite NRL fixtures of the season would be the annual ANZAC Day clash against the Warriors.

While the Storm would usually walk away with victory, the Auckland-based side would often put up a brave fight, sometimes coming away with an unexpected win. 

Local lad Taunoa-Brown had ambitions of donning the famous purple jersey and never in his wildest dreams did he imagine playing for the Warriors. 

But after a whirlwind few months, the 23-year-old will make his NRL debut in their opening game of the 2020 season against the Knights in Newcastle. 

Taunoa-Brown will wear the No.15 jersey and the hulking front-rower, standing 1.94m tall and weighing 114kg, will bring some much-needed size to an undermanned Warriors pack. 

"I always knew the Warriors had some great players and I never thought I'd be over here, but i'm enjoying the challenge," Taunoa-Brown admits to Newshub.

"Growing up a Storm fan, I used to go to all the games, especially all the ANZAC Day games. 

"There are so many great players at the Warriors and it will be unreal to become part of their history."

If you'd told Taunoa-Brown three months ago he would be playing in the Warriors' season-opener, he would have laughed at you. 

But that's how quickly things have changed for Taunoa-Brown, who arrived in Auckland with no guarantees, after speaking to Warriors recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan.

O'Sullivan had watched Taunoa-Brown during his time with Norths Devils in the second-tier Queensland Cup, where he played 47 games over two years. 

Previously, he spent time with the Storm at U18 and U20 level in 2014 and 2015, and in 2016 and 2017 with the Knights, where he appeared in an NRL trial, as well as 21 U20 games and 12 New South Wales Cup matches.

O'Sullivan asked Taunoa-Brown to come to New Zealand on a train-and-trial contract and he happily obliged.

Taunoa-Brown was selected to represent the Warriors at the Perth Nines, then joined the Australian Indigenous All-Stars for last weekend’s encounter with the Māori Kiwis.

Jamayne Taunoa-Brown in action during a pre-season clash against the Wests Tigers.
Jamayne Taunoa-Brown will make his Warriors debut against Newcastle. Photo credit: Photosport

After season-ending knee injuries to Bunty Afoa and Jackson Frei, and Sam Lisone's release to the Titans, Warriors coach Stephen Kearney offered Taunoa-Brown a two-year deal and a spot in the 30-man squad.

"The last few weeks have been crazy, with the All Stars and trials, but i'm embracing it and I want to take this opportunity with both hands.

"I buzz out a bit when I look at some of the players around me. The boys and everyone here have been welcoming. 

"I'm enjoying my time here, and I'm trying to get out and see as much as Auckland as possible."  

While playing for the Devils, who are based north of Brisbane, Taunoa-Brown also worked fulltime as a labourer.

He says the long hours of physical toil made him more determined to earn an NRL contract with the Warriors, so he could fulfil his dream. 

"I was playing and working numerous labouring jobs, and thought that this was something I didn't want to for the rest of my life.

"Working a fulltime job, then going to training is draining, but the motivation of trying to crack the top level was at the back of my head, so that motivated me to get to where I am now. 

"Nothing was guaranteed for me, but I worked hard and got rewarded with a two-year contract." 

Taunoa-Brown says Warriors fans can expect him to do all the little things in the middle of the park.

"I'll bring lots in attack and defence. I'll try play my game and be a dominant force through the middle, and do my job as best as I can and get as many wins as possible. 

"It's been a massive step up, but you don't have to work and then go training, so you can just focus on footy, which is great. 

"I've never been fulltime at another team, but rubbing shoulders with these NRL boys is unreal and motivating me to do better." 

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