New Warriors recruit Bodene Thompson wasn't exactly destined to be a professional sportsman.
Thompson, one of four new arrivals at the club for the 2015 season, didn't start playing league until his late teens.
He grew up in Tauranga, where rugby was the only game in town, but failed to stand out in the 15-man code.
"I played it my whole life [but] I wasn't much of a rugby player," laughs Thompson. "I was a really fat kid ... I played prop."
Thompson came through the grades with Luke Braid, who has gone on to captain the Blues, but didn't reach the heights of his school mate.
"Luke always dominated - he was pretty good," says Thompson. "I didn't get any higher than 2nd XV."
At 17, Thompson emigrated to Australia with his mother and stepfather. He enrolled at Keebra Park High School on the Gold Coast, a renowned league nursery that has produced the likes of Greg East-wood, Benji Marshall, Ben Teo and Robert Lui.
"I was surrounded by league so I thought, 'I'll give it a crack'," Thompson said. "When I left [New Zealand], I wanted a change, so I went over to Australia and fell in love with rugby league ... I've been pretty lucky.
Now he has come home, going against the grain of most Kiwis who seek their NRL fortune across the Tasman.
It also feels like he has arrived at Mt Smart at just the right time, after a steady rise through the NRL.
Thompson made his debut for the Titans in 2009 and accumulated 49 matches at Robina (including two playoff games) before moving to the Tigers in 2013.
His game went to another level with the Sydney club, particularly last season, when he made 21 appearances and scored six tries.
"With Bodene, you know that if we play for 80 minutes, 90 minutes or 100 minutes, he'll want to play every second," said Warriors assistant coach Andrew Foster. "He averaged 77 minutes a game last year. He is an extremely durable player and that gives us a lot of options."
Thompson has settled in well and been impressed with what he has found in Auckland. The 26-year-old has no doubts the Warriors can move from being an 'almost' club to title contenders.
"Cappy [McFadden] and his team have a real focus on raising the standards," Thompson said. "They are driving that day in, day out. It's all about not clocking off, a never-say-die attitude. If you are walking at training, you'll find out about it."
With Ryan Hoffman established on the left edge, the 1.85m, 107kg Thompson will be duelling with Ben Henry for a second-row spot on the right side. His versatility also means he is a viable option at lock to cover for Simon Mannering.
"He is very aggressive and you could play him anywhere," said Webster. "I can't talk enough about how much he competes - he competes for every little scrap from the word go."
Apart from a "relentless" pre-season, Thompson has made the most of the summer. He has enjoyed several trips back to Tauranga to see family and spent time fishing and diving.
"We use long-lining off a kayak [or] dinghy," said Thompson of the fishing expeditions with his father and mates.
"It's also great diving for kinas, crayfish, paua. Just basically anything, being outdoors. I used to go diving a bit near Wollongong but it is definitely better here."
49 games, 9 tries
36 games, 7 tries