NRL: NZ Warriors newcomer Brayden Wiliame paying back coach Andrew Webster's faith after unlikely switch from France

Brayden Wiliame never thought he'd be a starter for NZ Warriors, but now wants to make the No.3 jersey his own after deciding to call Auckland home.

Since his NRL debut in 2013, Wiliame has played for Parramatta Eels, Manly Sea Eagles, St George Illawarra Dragons in Australia, as well as Catalans Dragons in France.

After a journeyman career in the NRL, the 30-year-old signed for the Warriors at the end of 2022, returning to the southern hemisphere after a stint playing rugby union in France with Perpignan.

But a conversation with new Warriors coach Andrew Webster was all the convincing Wiliame needed to relocate - again - moving from France to New Zealand to begin his career with the Warriors.

Brayden Wiliame.
Brayden Wiliame. Photo credit: Photosport

So far, that switch has proved fruitful.

Wiliame impressed for the Warriors in pre-season, starting at centre and laying on three try assists in a 48-12 victory over Wests Tigers, and was backed by Webster to keep hold of the left centre's spot in last week's NRL season opener against Newcastle Knights.

If there was any doubt what the chance to play for the Warriors meant to Wiliame, an emotional jersey presentation ahead of his debut gave him a chance to show his gratitude, and backed it up with a solid display in Friday's 20-12 win.

Against the Knights, Wiliame made one more try assist, to go with six tackles on the edge.

Not carried away by one game, though, Wiliame knows he can't rest on his laurels if he's to be a Warriors regular - even if it was something that he never planned on. 

"When I talked to Webby, it wasn't even my main goal to come back to the NRL," said Wiliame.

"To be here, first and foremost, it was just a proud moment to be playing round one. That was my goal, to be in there [for] round one.

"Now that I've done that, I want to hold my spot. There's a lot of hard work in between, but we're on the right track."

Including pre-season, Wiliame has only played three games for the Warriors.

But for Webster, who himself is also adjusting to a new club, Wiliame has already started to pay back the support he's received from higher up.

And boasting seniority as a 30-year-old out to secure his spot, Webster has so far enjoyed what he's seen.

"I love him," said Webster. "He's been excellent since he's come to the club.

"He's bought a lot of leadership. He's been all around the world, been to different countries. He comes back and just brings a lot of calmness and experience.

"He's earned his spot there, and he deserves it. We knew he was hungry. You talk to a player and you want to find out what they want out of this opportunity.

"That excited me. He's so low maintenance, so professional. It's really good." 

Wiliame will start again for the Warriors on Saturday, keeping his spot as the Kiwi club look for back-to-back wins when they travel to Sydney to face the Roosters - who lost their season opener in a surprise upset against Redcliffe Dolphins.