Hamilton bro town for Warriors forwards
It's back to where it all began for the Warriors' Rapira brothers this weekend.
After numerous Hukanui club games and Stallions rep matches together, Sam and Steve will reunite on their home patch in Saturday's pre-season trial against the Penrith Panthers at Waikato Stadium.
The last time the brothers played together in Hamilton was back in 2005 in a Bartercard Cup match which was a curtain-raiser to the Warriors-Eels NRL clash.
Now the props are inching closer to playing their first regular season match together.
Sam, 25, debuted for the Warriors in 2006, while Steve, 24, played for the club's Junior side in 2008, before moving to the North Queensland Cowboys the following year and debuting in first grade, then returning to the Warriors in 2011.
However, despite Steve being back two seasons, injuries to each of the Rapiras have so far robbed them of taking the park together, apart from in the pre-season.
Last year the pair managed only 13 regular season games between them.
"Hopefully, it all turns out in my favour but that's football. You never know what's going to happen, you've just got to accept what does happen," Sam said of being struck down by shoulder, ankle and arm injuries last year.
Steve knows exactly how it feels, after ankle, wrist and hamstring problems kept him sidelined for most of last season.
"It's been pretty frustrating," he said.
"The main thing is I've just been working on my body, just listening to it, making sure that we've got everything under control."
Steve was made captain for their first outing last weekend, leading a vastly inexperienced group in a loss to the Gold Coast Titans.
Although he maintains the captaincy was bestowed on him "just because I was the oldest", it is a feather in the cap for the hard-hitter, who is now just trying to make the round one team, with coach Matt Elliott maintaining he will pick on form rather than reputation.
"There's massive competition at the moment," Sam said. "I personally couldn't pick a team to run out round one, which is a good thing. So everyone's got to be on top of their game and just perform.
"That's the way it should be at any level and I'm glad it's that way now because whether you've played 100 games or one game, if you're training and performing well you deserve to play."
After last weekend's first hit-out, Steve believed the team was strong in the contact but they would have to up their game on defence and, with the experienced heads back for this outing, that will improve.
"For a lot of the team, it was their first time playing against guys in the NRL. And the speed and the wrestle and that, the boys that are coming back know what to expect, so it's definitely going to be a bit easier."
Saturday will be Sam's first outing for the season and he's looking forward to playing on home turf.
"It's always good going back home. Anywhere out of Auckland's always pretty exciting, when you take it to places we don't usually play you usually get a good turnout. I think a lot of the boys are looking forward to exploring the rest of New Zealand and putting on a good show."
The Rapiras will have strong support from their family and friends, many of whom have tried to hit the brothers up for tickets to the match.
"It's mean," Steve said of playing in Hamilton. "All the boys have been texting for tickets and that - bloody hoha fellas. But it'll be pretty cool."