Kiwi giants take Taukeiaho under their wing
Just over a year ago, NRL rookie Sio Siua Taukeiaho left behind his family in New Zealand and headed for Sydney's eastern suburbs to take a plunge with then-premiers the Roosters.
Staying in a share house in Maroubra, Taukeiaho isn't sure how he'd have coped without a helping hand from a pair of Roosters hard-men: Kiwi Test enforcers Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Moa.
Last Saturday, he played just his second NRL game and his first at his new club, having debuted in Round 26 of 2013 with his former club the Warriors.
The 22-year-old ran the ball strongly, making 62 metres from five carries, and also made 19 tackles in just 23 minutes on the field. He has been named to hold his spot for Sunday afternoon's massive clash against the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium.
"A lot of the Kiwis – Jared, Sam Moa, a few of the boys – they all helped me when I moved over here," Taukeiaho, whose first name is pronounced 'See-Waa', told NRL.com.
"It was just me here [in Australia], my family was still back in New Zealand and they were able to help me through the season. But now my family's here I've got the support.
"It was tough leaving my family back at home – I came here on my own, staying in a house at Maroubra with a few of the boys. Jared and Sam Moa were the ones that looked after me during the season until my family move over and it was something I was grateful for."
He said it was a big challenge trying to force his way into first grade with such a strong forward pack at the club.
"But now I get the opportunity to play alongside guys I really look up to Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Moa. It's a big challenge but they helped me out there as well and it definitely showed on the weekend."
Taukeiaho, who moved across from Otara in south Auckland in late 2013, said he was "pretty stoked" when informed by head coach Trent Robinson at a team meeting that he would be making his club debut in Round 1.
"It was an honour to run out there alongside the team that won the grand final in 2013. I was privileged to play alongside these guys on the weekend."
Having started out in the halves as a junior, Taukeiaho moved out to the wing, then into the centres and then the back row. He said his preferred position currently is lock but would of course play anywhere if it meant lining up in first grade.
Waerea-Hargreaves said if he could sum up Taukeiaho in one word, that word would be "humble".
"He's skilful, fit, fast, the sky's the limit for him. He's listened, he's been a sponge to knowledge, he's taken everything on board, credit to him he's worked very hard and here he is playing," Waerea-Hargreaves said.
"When we finished [the Cowboys game] I said 'welcome to the club'. He loves it."
Waerea-Hargreaves, now 26 years old and a veteran of more than 100 first grade games and 16 Tests for New Zealand, said he felt it his duty to take on a mentoring role with the younger players – like Taukeiaho – coming up through the ranks.
"Some of these younger boys coming through, you need to pull them in and show them the ropes. Siua was one of the boys a few of us have taken responsibility for and he's done well.
"I catch up regularly with him and have a good chat with him, just sort of tell him what we want from him and what he needs to improve to keep going I guess. And full credit to him, he's been awesome."