Tim Nanai-Williams didn't even know he was about to play his 50th match for the Chiefs this Friday until told at Monday's team media session.
It seemed like just yesterday that a 19-year-old Nanai-Williams made his debut for the franchise in 2010 against the Sharks.
Back then he was a known young fullback with pace and clever footwork who was being eased into the team on the wing. He mostly continued on the wing until this year, making the move to centre in Richard Kahui's absence and he has made the position his own.
"I didn't really expect to see a 50th so early, so I guess it's a great achievement if I do get on the field this week," Nanai-Williams said.
"It was a bit of a shock for me because I hadn't really kept count on my games."
It seems almost a given that he will start against the Crusaders in a massive match in Christchurch on Friday night, which will decide the likely playoff seedings of both sides, such has been the level of his performance in the 13 jersey this year. And with that has come a different status for the 23-year-old in the team.
"I actually feel like one of the old guys now, getting the 50, but I'm just buzzing about the fact that I'm getting that 50th in one club to be honest."
Not that Nanai-Williams will allow himself to get too distracted by the honour with so much riding on the outcome of the match at AMI Stadium.
"It's going to be a tough battle again. The last time we played them we just edged them and it's going to be the same this week as well so we've got to make sure we get our preparation right and just make sure we put that on the park.
"You have to make sure you do everything task by task against the Crusaders. You can't really take a big step; you've got to take the little steps first before you can start implementing the big stuff," he said.
It has not been easy for Nanai-Williams making the transition to centre with his midfield partners varying through form and injury until more recently his Counties-Manukau team-mate Bundee Aki appears to have taken a hold on the No 12 jersey.
"It's been quite frustrating, I bet, for the coaches and for myself too. I always just want to play every game and make sure I'm playing consistently and we're starting to get that bond now and that consistency through our front three of Cruds [Aaron Cruden] and Bundee Aki.
"It's good we've had no more injuries and now the coaches can actually get some depth in our team now."
Nanai-Williams said it definitely helped his own performance having Cruden and Aki alongside him consistently.
"At the beginning of the year we started chopping and changing with different second-fives with Andrew Horrell and Charlie Ngatai and it was difficult for me because they all play differently and I had to adjust my game.
"But having Bundee and Aaron there week in, week out makes it a lot easier for me, because I know how they play."
Against the hard-working Crusaders midfield pair of Tom Taylor and Ryan Crotty it was going to be important for him and Aki to stay on task as they had done against the Hurricanes combination of Rey Lee-Lo and Conrad Smith last Friday.
- Waikato Times
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