For Dominique Peyroux, being back in Auckland - and in the NRL - represents a homecoming of the sweetest kind.
The new Warriors back, Matthew Elliott's most recent recruit, has taken a winding road to the top level of rugby league, with as many setbacks as successes.
Growing up in Auckland - where he played for the Otahuhu Leopards, Papatoetoe Panthers and Mangere East Hawks - he struggled to turn heads in his chosen sport and, even after a move to Australia as a teenager, took eight years to get a chance in first grade.
"I was always the one that missed out on representative sides growing up," says Peyroux. "I just kept training and tried to keep the dream alive. I went to Australia - as they say, it is the land of opportunity - to give it a go. I was there on holiday and my uncle suggested I go along to an open trial at the Roosters. I thought I would give it a go - what the hell - made the under-18s and went from there."
He eventually made the Toyota Cup team at Bondi in 2008 before a move to the Gold Coast the following season. After a full year at NYC level in 2009, he was too old for the under-20s by the next season (by three weeks) and not wanted by coach John Cartwright for the top side.
He turned out for feeder club Tweed Heads Seagulls in the Queensland Cup in 2010, before finally making his NRL debut late last year. However, his appearances at the highest level have been intermittent - 16 games for the Titans since round 21 in 2011.
"It's been a bit of a journey," says Peyroux. "I remember some of my mates [in Auckland] got recruited over to Australia [whereas] I had to trial just to make the 18s. It's been a long climb up the ladder but it feels like it's all paying off now."
Peyroux has mainly played in the outside backs across his career, though at Tweed Heads he was employed for long spells as a second rower and Cartwright used him in the forwards in five NRL games.
"I'm moving further in as I get older," jokes the 23-year-old. "It was a good experience but I want to focus on centre. There is some good competition around at the club but there are spots up for grabs and I hope to play first grade more often than I did at the Titans."
Peyroux's father has Cook Island and French heritage, while his mother's bloodline derives from Samoa and the Solomon Islands.
He was surrounded mostly by Samoan culture growing up in Auckland, though has played for the Cook Islands at international level, notably at the 2009 Pacific Cup, where he scored three tries in as many games against Samoa, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
When asked what he brings to the Warriors, Peyroux emphasises his leadership and communication skills, especially in the "tough times under fatigue".
Like fellow new boy Dane Nielsen, he is primarily known for the defensive side of the game. That thought might not set pulses racing among the fans but could be just what is needed after the lamentable defensive effort in 2012, where the backline was more about 'give way' than 'stop'.
"He is a good defensive centre who can add a lot to our group," says coach Matt Elliott. "We don't lack speed so we just need to get the balance [between attack and defence] right. He's also a strong ball carrier that knows how to run a good line and quite a tough kid, so it wasn't a hard decision."
With Ben Henry likely to switch back to the pack, Peyroux will be jousting with Nielsen, Jerome Ropati, Konrad Hurrell and perhaps Carlos Tuimavave for the number three and four jerseys.
"Dominique needs to know he is in competition and needs to embrace that - which he is doing - and go past people," says Elliott. "That competition will bring out the best in all of them, which is the ultimate goal for the club."By Michael Burgess Email Michael