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Underdog Ed: Why Kosi won't be deterred

As a teenage rugby league player Ed Kosi got used to having to prove himself the hard way.

Deemed not good enough to crack the top age-grade team at his club, he even struggled to stand out in the group of second stringers at the Mangere East Hawks.

He watched on as many of his friends and teammates picked up development deals with the Warriors and other clubs, while he went unnoticed and failed to make rep teams. 

"Nobody knows this, but I remember crying about not being noticed in footy, and praying to be in the position I am in now," he tells 

I remember going home after a U-16 game when my teammates were scouted by the Warriors, and to be honest I took it personally at the time.

Ed Kosi

"My mates were picking up development contracts and going overseas for opportunities, and I thought I might be able to join them."

It would be a number of years before he finally did catch the attention of his hometown NRL club, after impressing at a U-20 open trial, and even then it was far from smooth sailing. 

Kosi scores a screamer

But as it happened all of those lessons were preparing him for a much more public test, which in the past 12 months has seen the 24-year-old overcome his leading role in the horror show that was a 70-10 loss to the Storm on Anzac Day last year, to become a first-choice player for the Warriors in 2023.

Never the star

At times this season Kosi has had to pinch himself when he looks at the representative players he trains with every week, while the drives home each day offer him a quiet place to reflect on how far he has come.

While he's now a NRL regular on merit, Kosi still sees himself as the teenage battler, partly because it motivates him to keep doing more. 

"I was a late bloomer and I was never the most outstanding player," Kosi says. 

"So my mindset has always been to start at the bottom and work as hard as I could.

"There was a feeling like, 'I'm not the best, but I'll try and work my way up'.

"I always believe in myself and know I work hard. When I look at my journey to being a first-grader, it gives me confidence.

"I am pretty happy with the way I am going now and I am living the dream."

As a teenager Kosi had obvious physical gifts, with his footwork the first thing that caught the eye of local coach Travel Teau, who spotted him as a 12-year-old playing touch with his little brother for hours on end, next to the training fields at Mangere East.

He tried for months to recruit Kosi for his team and eventually got his man, who he'd end up coaching for several years in teams made up of the players not selected by the club's top side in the grade. 

Brilliant Kosi forces the turnover

Teau said while at the time he was a long way off the best players in his age group, Kosi always had a strong level of self-belief.

These days he uses Kosi's story as an example for other young footy players to show what can be achieved if you stick at it.

"I love talking about Eddy and how he is in the NRL, and he's a good example for other kids from the area," Teau says.

Kosi has five tries in seven games this year. ©NRL Photos
Kosi has five tries in seven games this year. ©NRL Photos

"For me it makes me proud to see one of my players doing that, 

"We all thought there was a couple of guys who would crack the NRL from his age group, but he is the only one who made it."

The resurgence 

Since that aforementioned horror game last year, in which Kosi made a handful of key errors as his opposite number Xavier Coates scored four tries, he has hardly put a foot wrong when called upon to play in the NRL side. 

Match Highlights: Storm v Warriors

This year he has started every game on the wing and heading into Round 8 is the club's top try-scorer with five four-pointers to his name. 

His vast improvement on the field led to a two-year contract extension earlier this year, and he's regularly received praise from coach Andrew Webster for his efforts on both sides of the ball.

Ahead of Tuesday's return to Melbourne, Kosi says he hasn't thought much about last year, and his left-edge partner Marcelo Montoya believes there is no chance "Big Kos" will take any negative baggage with him to AAMI Park. 

"No demons, mate. He's long gone from that. He will go out there and play an awesome game," Montoya says.

I am very proud of 'Kos'. His confidence has gone up, his talk on the field, the way he carries the ball with intent, it's all gone up a level. 

Marcelo Montoya

"He is a legend and he deserves everything he gets. Kos has a massive future in footy and at this club."

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The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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