Warriors rookie OK with 'Mini Beast' moniker

BY ROBERT LOWE
Last updated 11:53 12/08/2010
Rookie NZ Warriors winger Bill Tupou.
Getty Images
MINI MANU: Rookie NZ Warriors winger Bill Tupou regards his new nickname of Mini-Beast as a big compliment.

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Rookie National Rugby League (NRL) winger Bill Tupou regards his new nickname as big compliment.

The New Zealand Warrior has found himself being referred to as "Mini-Beast", or a junior version of teammate Manu "The Beast" Vatuvei.

"It's a compliment, I'll take that," Tupou said.

"The boys are mocking me, called me 'MB, MB!' but I'm loving it."

Tupou lived up to the billing against Cronulla last weekend, grabbing a hat-trick of tries in a 37-10 win, after having gone through his first 10 NRL appearances without a touchdown.

He said training with Vatuvei - whose strike rate this year is 14 tries in 14 appearances and who is just five short of Stacey Jones' club record of 77 - had been a great help in his development.

"He's given me tips and he's just taken me under his wing," he said.

"I roomed with him last week and he was like, `It was me, that's why he scored three tries,' and I said, 'It must be'. Being next to him and playing with him is really good."

At 1.89m and 112kg, Vatuvei is 6cm taller and 21kg heavier than Tupou.

It was because of injury to Vatuvei that got Tupou plucked from the Junior Warriors' under-20s campaign to make his NRL debut against Manly in April.

After a brief spell back with the Junior Warriors, he was recalled to first grade a fortnight ago when Kevin Locke tweaked a hamstring.

Tupou, who turned 20 last month, admitted that he wouldn't have expected at the start of the year to be part of a Warriors late-season push for a playoff berth.

"No, I'm surprised because I was just thinking of playing 20s this year," he said.

"Injuries have come up and I've just stepped in and tried to play my best."

Having waited so long to get his first NRL try, he credited the work of the pack for allowing him to take his tally to three in the space of just 21 minutes.

"The forwards did great going up the middle and getting the yards, and creating more space for the backs," he said.

"I just got lucky. I just did my thing and got over the white line."

Tupou keeps his place ahead of a recovering Locke in an unchanged line-up for the visit of Newcastle on Sunday, with the eighth-placed Warriors looking to maintain their momentum for a finals berth.

He is likely to mark former Warrior Cooper Vuna, with Vatuvei up against in-form Fijian flyer Ukuila Uate.

"I'm happy to get another chance, but I've got to play like how I played last weekend," Tupou said.

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"Hopefully I bring that out against the Knights."

Coach Ivan Cleary said it was tough to decide between Locke and Tupou for the No 2 jersey.

"To Bill's credit, he really took his opportunities and he was the players' player at the weekend, so they all appreciated how he played," he said.

"As for Kevin, we still have to see how he's going, coming back from injury. At the end of the day, it's probably just not taking any risks."

- NZPA

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