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If you've watched him play this season then you'll struggle to believe it, but confidence has never really been a strong point for Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

Humility was central in his upbringing as part of a Māori whānau (family) in Hamilton, New Zealand, and it's a big reason why he's become one of the most popular members of the Warriors' squad since joining mid-season in 2021. 

But as he's learned in the more recent part of his now 12-year professional career, it's also a trait which has at times held him back on the rugby league field and meant he hasn't always backed himself. 

"It's something I have lacked in the past for sure. I am not a very confident person and that is something I have worked on," Watene-Zelezniak told 

"I never grew up talking about my achievements and things like that.

It's a fine line for me between what I have known as arrogance and confidence. I am learning on the run and I think it is helping.

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak

"I have had a mind coach now for a few years and I am just trying to believe in myself and the things I can do. That goes a long way to performing out on the field. 

"Also knowing that I have been around a long time and you don't lose things, you gain things, and most of it is in my head."

The results are hard to argue with so far in 2023. 

Following his stunning hat-trick to help his side past the Sea Eagles 29-22 last Friday, the veteran has shot up to 21 tries for the year and is equal with Jamayne Isaako and Alex Johnston as the NRL's top try-scorer, despite playing six less games than the former and five fewer than Johnston.

Warriors v Sea Eagles - Round 25, 2023

It also puts him on track to become the most prolific Warrior of all time across a single season, with the mark of 23 tries achieved by both Francis Meli and David Fusitu'a in the past set to be crushed if the 28-year-old remains fit. 

He has failed to score a four-pointer just once in his past 12 games and has just four games this year without at least one try to his name. 

But ask him how he's doing it and those old habits creep back, with his teammates, coaches and whānau all listed as reasons before he takes any credit himself.  

"I am a lot of things before I'm a footy player and being a husband and father are my most treasured things... what my wife and kids are doing for me at home has been so important," he said. 

I have got a lot of clarity in what I am doing, thanks to Webby [coach Andrew Webster] and his game plan and what he has been talking to me about, the way he has narrowed my role.

Round 21: DWZ denies the try

"What Shaun [Johnson], Marata [Niukore] and Rocco [Berry] and Charnze [Nicoll-Kolkstad] are doing, I am reaping the rewards for that. They are doing the tough stuff, I get to do the pretty stuff." 

Meanwhile the impact of the Warriors' remarkable rise to prominence this year continues to be felt across the NRL, with ticket sales for the club's clash against the Dragons this Friday at Go Media Stadium reaching capacity within hours of their win in Round 25.

The added attention Watene-Zelezniak is getting, thanks in no small part to the countless clips of his tries floating around social media each week, was also apparent when he was approach by NBA player Steven Adams for a photo after the Manly game. 

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"He came and asked me 'bro, can I get a photo?' I thought, 'eh, you are asking me for a photo?'," Watene-Zelezniak said. 

"It was pretty surreal to have someone like him in the sheds!"

Acknowledgement of Country

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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