A former Tiger has become a Warrior — spurning the chance to be a Bronco or a Knight.
Tamakaimoana Whareaorere cut his rugby league teeth playing for Te Puke Tigers, the start of his playing days coinciding with the founding of the club in 2012.
Now 15, he has just signed a three year contract with New Zealand Warriors, after interest from half of Australia's NRL clubs.
In June he played in the under 15 New Zealand Māori Rugby League Rangatahi tournament in Taupō where his potential was identified by several agents and scouts.
Dixon McIver Management was signed up to guide the whānau through the process and there was interest from eight NRL clubs.
Tamakaimoana visited two of them — Brisbane Broncos and Newcastle Knights.
"The Roosters were next in the line and Manly were next after that," says grandfather Ted Whare.
"But he decided he wanted to stay at home and sign with the Warriors."
The Warriors' interest wasn't out of the blue.
Playing for Rotorua Boys' High School 1st XV at the under 15s national rugby tournament last year, he was spotted by Warriors staff.
"So by the time he turned 15 we already knew their radar had spotted him, and once he turned 15 they were ready to encourage him to sign — but that decision took six months," says grandmother Carol.
Ted says the journey to becoming a Warrior began "a long time ago".
"All my grandchildren love rugby, love rugby league and they love pig hunting and one day I gave them a choice. Do they want to go hunting on Saturdays or Sunday because Saturday's rugby and Sunday's league — they chose Saturday [for hunting] and in doing so also chose to play league.
Tamakaimoana played league until he went to Te Puke Intermediate where his potential saw him play for the school's AIMS Games side and the Te Puke Tai Mitchell team.
Since becoming a Rotorua Boys' High School student he has played primarily rugby, but has still played plenty of league.
Tamakaimoana says he is excited and nervous about his future with the club. He has already donned the Warrior jersey, playing an under-16 game against New Zealand under 16s and he has also captained the New Zealand Māori Under 15s to a win over Tonga where he was also the first try scorer.
"Everybody was amazed because those boys rarely get beaten," says Ted.
Tamakaimoana's favoured position is lock, and his favourite player is Sonny Bill Williams "when he was younger". He is also an admirer of Ardie Savea.
Carol says that while his defence is the strongest part of his game — "he's a natural" — he also has a good off-load.
"His skill level is way up there, it's only the finer points of league that are missing and he will learn those over the next few years."
Te Puke Tigers president David Taffard couldn't be more proud of Tamakaimoana's achievement.
"I'm still buzzing inside — it was a dream when we started this club off, as well as make a cool environment for our kids to play in, to give them that opportunity if they want to push on. I've been dreaming of the day we can get somebody into the NRL."
Carol says she believes Tamakaimoana can now be a role model for other players from Te Puke.
"It's a good news story, especially for our town and for Te Puke Tigers, where this all started with boys running around with cold feet who just wanted to throw a ball around, for David and for [coach] Tony [Brown].
"If one boy can do it, we've got a dozen who can do it."
Warriors' Future Warriors Programme manager Jordan Friend says Tamakaimoana "would have to be the most physical player I have seen in recent years".
"[He's an] aggressive defender, strong ball carrier and he has a big motor — as such he thrives in rugby league.
He says Tamakaimoana was a standout at the New Zealand Maori RL Rangatahi tournament.
"So we were really pleased in his and the whānau's decision in joining the Vodafone Warriors — over numerous other opportunities.
"He comes from a proud and very supportive whānau and I know he will inspire others from Te Puke."
The plan for Tama is to finish his final two years of schooling at Rotorua Boys' High School and during that time he will take part in camps and representative matches.
"The club will continue to build that relationship with Rotorua Boys' to work together to develop him. The club has three ex-Rotorua boys in our full-time squad in Hayze Perham, Tom Ale and Selestino Ravutaumada as well as a few in our academy."