Gubb's long-awaited Wellington chance
The road to running out in an NRL jersey in his hometown of Wellington has proved a long and twisting one for Warrior Charlie Gubb.
Having made the trip to Westpac Stadium as part of the club's NSW Cup squad in both 2013 and 2014, the 25-year-old prop will finally get the chance to run out as part of the first grade team on Saturday night against the Dragons.
Two years ago Gubb had been set for a dream NRL debut at the venue in front of his friends and family when veteran front-rower Sam Rapira was a late exclusion from the squad due to injury.
But then coach Matthew Elliott instead opted to hand a debut to Suaia Matagi, something which Gubb said still hurt deep down.
"I remember when we played the Bulldogs down there [in 2013] I really wanted to play that game and I thought I would make my debut there," Gubb said.
"But it didn't happen and I was really disappointed I didn't get to play in Wellington, so this is redemption to play there.
"It will be a bit different, I am excited because I have never played in front of a big crowd at Westpac.
"I think my dad [Paul] is more excited than anyone, but my mum hasn't talked about it, we just talk about normal stuff like what we had for dinner and stuff like that."
Despite producing NRL talents such as former Cowboy David Faiumu, current Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney and Warriors star Ben Matulino, rugby league has never been a leading code in Wellington.
But with Wellington having hosted last year's Four Nations final, and with the Warriors viewing it as an ideal alternative home venue, Gubb hopes the game can take off in the city where he lived right up until being signed to play Holden Cup for the Auckland-based club.
"I would like to think that league is getting a bit stronger, there are about four strong clubs in Wellington and the rest is a little bit of a struggle," Gubb said.
"League is kind of looked at as being a bit rough in Wellington, but they are doing a good job with [Wellington Rugby League general manager] Jason Hemson changing the mindset.
"I think the only time I have watched NRL down there was when the Bulldogs came down [in the early 2000s]. I still remember that so hopefully some people who haven't watched live league before can come out and watch this one."
Other current Warriors with links to Wellington include Matulino, who played all of his junior footy with local club the Te Aroha Eels, and captain Simon Mannering who spent some time playing there in his teenage years.
As captain of both New Zealand's NRL side and national team, Mannering said it was nice to see the club actively growing the game outside the traditional heartland of Auckland.
"It's special and I know Charlie's old man is a pretty passionate supporter and a great bloke, and he will be loving seeing his son run out on Westpac Stadium," Mannering told NRL.com.
"I think it's awesome anytime you get the chance to spread the game.
"I know doing it for the Warriors and Kiwis that when you play outside of the predominant home in Auckland people really appreciate it and have a real desire for the game.
"We generally get awesome support and it's a cool feeling to go down and see those people."
The Warriors will be hoping to improve on their record at the venue, which to date includes just one win from seven games.