Warriors rookie Albert Vete looks every bit the typical NRL frontrower, however looks can be deceiving.

Sure, at 1.88m and 110kg Vete has the physical presence to mix it with the toughest and meanest men in the game but there is another, deeper side to the hard-running 22-year-old Tongan international.

Newcomers to first grade often look like they'd rather be anywhere else when confronted by reporters.

In those situations it's not uncommon to hear the same old cliched replies to what are probably the same old cliched questions, but a conversation with Vete flows very smoothly and it's quickly apparent the former schoolboy rugby star has plenty to say.


"That comes down to me going to St Kentigern's," Vete explains of his penchant for discussion. "They're obviously a pretty prestigious school and it was there that I picked up how to speak properly and they are huge on that sort of stuff.

"With the first XV coverage on television now, when they were interviewing captains you had to learn how to speak correctly, so that's probably where it came from.

"Also, I'm studying a bachelor of physical education at Auckland University. I've always wanted to help young people, especially young Pacific Islanders, so I thought teaching would be a good way to do that," he said.

And while Vete continues his off-field education he admits he was surprised by how much he had to learn when he changed codes to join the Warriors under-20s side back in 2012.

Making the shift from the No 8 or loose forward rugby role to playing prop in the 13-man game was not as simple as he had imagined.

"I thought it would be straightforward - get the ball and run forward, run back onside - it looked straightforward to me," he said.

"But when I came here I found it was really difficult and there was a lot of stuff that I needed to learn, but I'm loving it.

"Would I go back to rugby? I don't know. Maybe in the future, but at the moment I'm loving league."


And why wouldn't he? Since debuting alongside fellow frontrower Sam Lisone against Newcastle in round one, Vete has been a near-constant on coach Andrew McFadden's bench.

A round eight demotion to NSW Cup was taken on the chin and Vete admits the chance to play a longer stint in the second-tier competition was a positive.

"Obviously I'm still new to league so I'm still trying to get the gist of playing first grade and all the little stuff that people don't see that frontrowers do.

"There were a few things I needed to work on in terms of my defence but it was a good way for me to get some more minutes in as well. At the time, I hadn't been playing much time in first grade and it was a good chance for me to build that base again."

And although senior props Ben Matulino and Jacob Lillyman continue to set the benchmark, Vete and Lisone have been so impressive that experienced campaigner Suaia Matagi was forced to seek a release to join the Sydney Roosters in an effort to find some game time.

"I'm really sad to see him go. He's a wonderful guy, very talented, and just the way he has turned his life around has been really inspiring for me, coming from a similar background.

"Obviously it opens up the door for me and Sammy but it just goes to show the competition for positions in the front row is so high.

"Suaia will go well and he deserves to be playing in first grade so it's a good move for him."

Establishing himself further and consolidating his place in the top side throughout the remainder of the year is now Vete's sole focus.

"My goal coming into the year was to play first grade and now I've played a couple of games my goal has changed into improving and being more consistent. The most important thing for me is to keep building and keep improving.

"That was probably what let me down last year. I had a few good games in NSW Cup and then I'd have a few bad games, so I'm trying to build that consistency to stay in first grade. It's a good place to be."

Albert Vete









NRL debut:

Round one 2015 v Newcastle Knights

Representative honours: One test for Tonga (2015), Junior Kiwis (2013)