One of the biggest cheers from the crowd at the Warriors game in Rotorua came when it was announced Hayze Perham had taken the field after halftime.

The 18-year-old former Rotorua Boys' High School student spent the first half of Saturday's 20-14 win over Melbourne Storm on the bench before playing the second half at fullback. In that 40 minutes he did everything required to suggest he has what it takes to be an NRL player.

He did not try to overplay his hand or produce the spectacular at Rotorua International Stadium, he simply went about his work with a calmness and maturity beyond his years.

While he looked calm, Perham admitted a few nerves crept in when he found out he was going on.


"At the start it was just another game, I didn't really feel nervous coming out of the tunnel and it was all good sitting out there watching the boys. As soon as my name got called out my heart started beating as fast as it ever has.

"Most of my family are from Rotorua or Taupo, so they've all travelled here. All of them are real proud, of course mum and dad have been there supporting me the most - mum was quite emotional, it was a big deal to her," he said.

He said the only word he could use to describe the experience was "unreal".

"To be out here, to be able to play the game I love in front of my hometown, which I love so much, has been an unreal experience and something I've always dreamed of."

Playing fullback in rugby league involves more than just kick returns. The number one is expected to slot in and create extra numbers on attack and is responsible for organising the defence.

Perham showed no fear in telling some of his more experienced teammates where they needed to be on the field.

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"They're real welcoming, of course they have the accolades and the experience that comes with it, but all they said was go out there and do your thing.

"I don't see myself as someone who is just coming into the game, I've been playing since I was a little kid, so all I was thinking to myself was go out there and do what you've always been doing."

Perham has a pretty handy mentor in the fullback role, having spent the pre-season picking Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's brain. Tuivasa-Sheck himself was in a similar position not so long ago, when he was making the transition from the wing to fullback at the Sydney Roosters, and was helped through the process by Anthony Minichiello, the Roosters' all-time leading try scorer.

"[The organisational side of playing fullback] has been my biggest work-on. I guess I've always had a natural running game, so has he, so he's told me he's had the same work-on ever since he's come into the game. It's been a real joy getting to know everything," Perham said.