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With Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad out injured to start the season, it would have been easy for Andrew Webster to hand the fullback job to the guy in his squad who has previously won a Dally M Medal and Golden Boot award in that position.

But instead of delaying Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's move to centre temporarily, he's put his faith in Taine Tuaupiki, the 24-year-old with five games to his name, who will begin his second season as an NRL player by fielding kicks from Nicho Hynes after being selected in the No.1 jersey to face the Sharks. 

It's a selection call that tells you plenty about Tuaupiki as a player and perhaps even more about Webster as a coach. 

"That faith in me was massive and to be honest Webby has probably given that confidence to everyone in the top 30 squad here," Tuaupiki told ahead of Friday night's clash at Go Media Stadium. 

"He showed it last year in Round 3 we had Charnze go down. We had someone like Te Maire (Martin) who has played fullback in the NRL, but he took the punt and gave me my debut because he had confidence in me. 

"Not just Webby either – the players like Tohu (Harris) and Shaun (Johnson) – they are backing me as well, listening to me when I make calls and trusting me.

When Webby is showing trust in me and those boys are too, I don't stress about anything, I just go out there and do my job.

Taine Tuaupiki

Tuaupiki started at fullback in both of the club's Pre-Season Challenge matches, but suffered a minor cork to his thigh in the win over the Dolphins and was taken from the field at half-time. 

That presented Tuivasa-Sheck with an opportunity to run again in his old position and he impressed with some big defensive plays and high attacking involvement.

Warriors v Dolphins – Pre-season 2024

But rather than finding the presence of RTS intimidating, Tuaupiki says it motivates him. 

"When I know Roger can pull things out like he did [against the Dolphins] at fullback it keeps on my toes, I know I have to play well," Tuaupiki said. 

"Having someone like 'Rog' in there has been very good for me. I ask him a lot of questions, like I do with Charnze as well.

"I try not to tell them because you don't want to fan boy, but I have these moments with him and probably Shaun as well, it is pretty humbling seeing those guys all the time.

"I know 14-year-old Taine would be pretty happy right now."

Tuaupiki pictured with Te Maire Martin ahead of his NRL debut last year. The pair both hail from the tiny New Zealand town of Tahāroa.
Tuaupiki pictured with Te Maire Martin ahead of his NRL debut last year. The pair both hail from the tiny New Zealand town of Tahāroa. ©NRL Photos

After earning a one-year deal via a train-and-trial contract at the start of last season, Tuaupiki has now signed on for the next two seasons with the Warriors.

While he accepts his path to being a full-time starting fullback at the Warriors will be blocked while Nicoll-Klokstad is on the roster, he's confident Auckland is the best place for him at this stage of his career. 

"My parents are in Australia but all the rest of my whānau (family) are in New Zealand, so my football is good, my life outside of football is good, everything is just happy at the moment," he said. 

"I have still got a lot of work to do, I don't know if too many clubs would have wanted me as a first choice at the moment anyway, but that's what I want to try and get out of this year.

"Keep working hard and when I get my opportunities take them with both hands, while learning from having Rog and Charnze here." 

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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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