NRL: NZ Warriors setting bar high for rookie fullback Taine Tuaupiki as club debut against North Queensland Cowboys awaits

NZ Warriors are setting the bar high for youngster Taine Tuaupiki, named for his first NRL start on Saturday against North Queensland Cowboys.

After impressing for the Warriors in NRL pre-season trials, Tuaupiki has been backed to wear the No.1 jersey this weekend, with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad unavailable due to a failed concussion test against Sydney Roosters.

At 23, Tuaupiki is older than the average NRL debutant. 

Taine Tuaupiki.
Taine Tuaupiki. Photo credit: Photosport

The youngster has been with the Warriors since November, initially on a train and trial contract, before proving his worth to new coach Andrew Webster during pre-season.

Playing at fullback in a 48-12 victory over Wests Tigers, Tuaupiki stood out to Webster and the Warriors, who upgraded him to a fulltime contract two days later.

Now, with a door and a jersey open, Tuaupiki has the chance to lay down a marker of his ability on the big stage.

And according to his coach, the rookie fullback has all the attributes to succeed in the NRL.

"He's hardworking, obviously, he's not scared to dream," said Webster. "It's not like he's 18 or 19 debuting, he's come the long road.

"He's been happy to be in the Queensland Cup, not aligned to an NRL club. He did a great job there. 

"He's very outgoing, he's not shy. But he certainly knows he's got a lot to learn. He's not brash, or arrogant or anything like that.

"He's confident in his own ability, and a very determined guy."

Meanwhile, Tuaupiki's new teammates also back him to succeed, even if a chastening debut against the Cowboys - currently 13th in the NRL - awaits.

Andrew Webster.
Andrew Webster. Photo credit: Photosport

Already, though, the 23-year-old has earned the trust and the respect of his peers.

"It'll be a step up," said captain Tohu Harris. "But he's shown how hard he works, and the talent he does have.

"We're going to be very comfortable with him back there talking to us.

"He's been doing it all pre-season, he's shown us he's got the ability to do it. We're very excited for him to get out there and have a crack."

Tuaupiki comes highly rated and recommended. 

In fact, after shining in the Queensland Cup for Burleigh Bears - named as the competition's Best and Fairest player - a familiar face gave the Warriors a steer.

Former club cult hero Michael Witt personally messaged Webster, and outlined why the Warriors need Tuaupiki in their ranks. 

"He gave me a tip to keep an eye on this kid," added Webster. "I went and watched some games.

"I thought the organisation of his defensive line was really good. He's super impressive the way he moves out the back of shape.

"He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he makes people miss [tackles].

"All the really good fullbacks haven't been massive, Billy Slater wasn't huge, but he's agile - he moves fast sideways.

"He's tough, he can turn up on plays when other people won't."

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