At the start of this year Ken Maumalo wrote down a list of goals.

Near the top, the Warriors wing — who was about to commence his fifth season of NRL — had three priorities.

They were to play consistent footy for the Warriors, make the Kiwis squad for the mid-year test and make the Kiwis tour at the end of the year.

Two have been ticked off — with aplomb — and Maumalo is a sure bet for Michael Maguire's team in October, unless injury intervenes.

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He's been a standout for the Mt Smart club, alongside captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, and is one of the most valuable players on the roster.

He's also becoming the perfect example to young league hopefuls in Auckland.

The Warriors have had a mixed record with local products, but Maumalo illustrates what is possible.

Maumalo, who will be a key figure against the Roosters this Sunday, admits he was far from a model professional in his early years at Mt Smart, but became determined to change.

Maumalo made his debut in round 10 of the 2015 season and it was a memorable day, as Bodene Thompson crashed over in golden point to secure an extra time win over the Eels.

Ken Maumalo. Photo / Photosport
Ken Maumalo. Photo / Photosport

He played 18 games over the next two seasons, but wasn't fully established until midway through the 2017 season.

"I've come a really long way," admitted Maumalo. "I probably had some dark times back then, it was pretty tough. If you look back now over the three years there is probably some performances you want to forget, and I was criticised for a lot of stuff."

In the midst of the storm, Maumalo found the resolve to become one of the most focused athletes at Mt Smart.

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"I wanted to be better," said Maumalo. "I knew what sort of athlete I was when I was playing bad, putting in poor performances for the team. I wanted to be better in myself.
It was the easy option to be bad and go missing. The hard option is to back it up and tell everyone what they are saying is probably wrong. It was something that motivated me to get better."

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney had to be patient with the Papatoetoe Panthers junior.

"In 2017 there were times when we could have quite easily put him back to reserve grade," said Maumalo. "[But] I knew that it wasn't going to help his development; I'd rather you have a go, take the learning and get it wrong, than go back and play where he wasn't going to get the learning."

As well as making changes to his diet, lifestyle and training ethos, Maumalo also ditched social media, which was a negative influence.

"I don't read any comments," said Maumalo. "It's not going to help me at all with what I am doing. The older you get the wiser you become. When you are younger you feed all your energy into that sort of stuff, comments and stuff. You see it on Facebook and that kind of thing."

With 16 tries already this season, he's also become a master of the gravity defying touchdown, able to force the ball in the corner when it seems impossible.

"I try to lever off my left foot, before I dive because it is my dominant leg — I try to power off that," said Maumalo. "My last push is off my left and then everything is off the ground and I try to work my left arm to the goal line. It's instincts really and I guess I am getting better at it."