You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

While Anzac Day takes centre stage on such a significant day for two nations, One New Zealand Warriors and Gold Coast players will again have their hearts and minds focused on honouring a fallen former Titan when they battle for the Zae Wallace Shield on Thursday.

It will be the eighth time the shield has been at stake as the two clubs ensure Wallace's impact on those whose lives he touched is not forgotten.

He was a high school rugby league star in New Zealand, winning the Auckland College Rugby League player of the year award in 2016 as he led Westlake Boys’ High School to a semi-final berth before he joined the Gold Coast NYC squad.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by One NZ Warriors (@nzwarriors)

After spending two years in Australia he returned home to play for his junior club Northcote but fell seriously ill in 2019 and lost his battle with an infection at the age of just 20.

He left his mark on so many as a beloved teammate and friend, one of whom was One New Zealand Warriors fullback Taine Tuaupiki.

“Zae was a little general. He had the ability to make everyone feel like they were best mates,” he said.

“It was a little bit funny when we went to his tangi. Obviously everyone there had their own little stories of Zae and it’s like, ‘Oh I thought I was one of his best mates’, but he just had that effect.”

The livewire fullback played in the Zae Walace Shield contest last year and is moved that the trophy will continue to honour his friend.

“It’s massive because I know Zae was real close with a lot of those boys, especially (AJ) Brimson for the Titans,” said Tuaupiki.

“Zae and Brimmo lived together and I was over there most weekends just spending it with them so, I don’t know, I still get a fright sometimes when this shield is being played.

“I got to play in it last year. I was 18th man and I was like ‘I’m not playing’… Charnze got brought off the field and I just expected Lukey Met(calf) to go fullback or something and then they just told me to get up and I was on.

“When we got the win, it was cool as. After (the game), I don’t think I let that shield go.”

While the Zae Wallace Shield matches serve as an annual celebration of the young playmaker’s life, Tuaupiki carries his mate with him each day as he forges his NRL career.

“I have written his name on my wrist every game since he has passed away, and just seeing little memories like that do remind me why I’m doing this,” he said.

“Not that I’m just doing it all for him but I’m being able to live out his dream which does push me that little bit harder for the bro.”

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.

Principal Partner

Major Partners

Official Sponsors

View All Partners