Joseph Tapine: The key decision that led to a Kiwis debut

By Michael Burgess in Carlisle

If you ask new Kiwis forward Joseph Tapine about fate, he'll agree it has been kind.

Earlier this year Tapine, who will make his test debut against Scotland tomorrow, made a decision that was to change the course of his year, maybe his career.

It was a sporting Sliding Doors moment, which set him on a path all the way to the Kiwis.

His pre-season switch from Newcastle to Canberra was controversial - at one point the Knights threatened to bench him for the season - but has turned out to be a masterstroke.

After three years with the Knights, who had signed him from Wellington as an 18-year-old, Tapine received an offer from the Raiders. He had played 20 NRL games for Newcastle since his debut in 2014, but the Raiders package was impressive.

Under contract to Newcastle until the end of 2016, he decided to sign with the 'Green Machine' for the 2017 season and beyond.

The news was not well received by the Knights hierarchy, with coach Nathan Brown banishing him from team trainings, and he faced the prospect of a season playing NSW Cup.

"At the time I told him (Brown) it was a relief for me," said Tapine. "I had been thinking about the decision for a while so it was a load off the shoulders. But after that it got a bit messy."

There was a precedent - with Wayne Bennett dumping Justin Hodges to reserve grade at the Broncos in 2001, after the centre had signed for the Roosters for the following year - though in recent times numerous players had been granted early releases, including Issac Luke, Peta Hiku and Michael Jennings and James Roberts.

The Knights took a stand - perhaps to dissuade other contracted players from seeking fresh pastures - and Tapine was caught in the middle.

Newcastle eventually relented, allowing the 22-year-old to move south just before the start of the season. And what a season. Tapine played 25 games off the interchange bench, as the Raiders revived memories of the glory days of the 1990s.

At the same time the Knights' young side had a miserable year, and it's hard to imagine Tapine would be facing Scotland tomorrow had he stayed on the Central Coast.

"It was a great life move and career move for me and my partner," said Tapine. "I'm grateful for the decision I made - it turned out to be a really good one."

It also reflects on Tapine's single mindedness, a trait he has displayed from a young age.

He turned down an opportunity to join the Warriors system as a teenager, as he had set his mind on making it across the Tasman.

"At the Warriors they get a lot of [under] 20s players but it is hard to push through to the next level," said Tapine." I thought the best opportunity was Australia. I'm stubborn [and] I was definitely going to do it once it was in my mind."

For a young player, Tapine also has a ruthless, 'damn the torpedoes' streak. Look at the way he targeted Kiwis team mate Marty Taupau during a clash with Manly this year, and he also singled out compatriot Tohu Harris in the finals clashes with the Storm, bringing an Origin type intensity to his play.

He'll need that tomorrow, one of three rookies on the bench charged with subduing the Scottish threat.

"We can't take them lightly," said Tapine. "They are a good team so we have to perform."

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- NZ Herald

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