If it wasn't for a case of homesickness, there's a pretty good chance Carlos Tuimavave's first-grade debut dream wouldn't have been coming true at Mt Smart Stadium this afternoon.
A star talent as a youngster, Tuimavave, who is likely to feature on the Warriors interchange bench against the Sharks for his NRL debut, was snapped up by the Bulldogs at age 16 and moved to Sydney to pursue his career in league.
And while his footy improved, the 20-year-old missed his family and Auckland. A trip back home and a meeting with Warriors recruitment boss Dean Bell changed his path.
"I came back and I was actually a bit homesick," Tuimavave told Sunday News.
"I came back for a holiday and Dean Bell approached me and said if you want to stay here and play for the Junior Warriors, we'd be keen to have you.
"I went away and I thought about it. I decided I wanted to stay here with my family. That way I'll be happy and when I'm happy, I'll be playing good footy." Tuimavave has impressed in the Warriors Under-20s setup; a crucial part of the team's two Toyota Cup titles in 2010 and 2011. His potential is recognised too at the top level, being rewarded with a first-grade squad place for the 2012 NRL season.
While his place in today's clash comes through an injury to star rookie centre Konrad Hurrell, a former Toyota Cup team-mate of Tuimavave's, coach Brian McClennan has been impressed with what the former standoff has to offer at the first-grade level.
"He's a fine young talent and he's been playing some good footy for the NYC," he said. "He gives us the option of being able to cover a few positions which is really handy to have on the bench.
"It gives us a bit of confidence if a back went down, we could pretty much play him in any position.
"He's fast he's skilful, he's brave.
"He's everything you want in a rugby league player, so it's a good opportunity for Carlos to see what he can do."
Tuimavave, who played his junior footy with the Mt Wellington Warriors, admits this week has been a bit of nervy one, but is confident he'll be ready to match up against the slumping Sharks today.
"I'm still a bit surprised at the moment," he said.
"I was told on Tuesday I would be coming off the bench.
"Definitely nervous but it still doesn't feel like I'm going to play first grade this week.
"But I'm sure come game day, I'll be nervous, but excited at the same time."
The 20-year-old said McClennan has tipped him for a possible future role in the centres or even fullback.
Tuimavave is open to a move to any spot on the paddock, as long as he gets on it.
"Before I came into the Juniors, I was originally a centre," he said.
"When I came to the Warriors, that's when I first started playing five-eighth so I don't mind centre or five-eighth, I'm comfortable in both positions. Playing in the halves in NRL, it doesn't get much harder than that.
"I'm just happy to play anywhere. Go out there, put on the jersey and play for the Warriors."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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