Thompson recalls junior days with senior side
Back in 2009 Bodene Thompson made history by becoming the first Tauranga born and raised player to make it in the Telstra Premiership.
The coastal city in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty region, located around two and a half hours south of Auckland, isn't a rugby league area as such and from a sporting point of view is more renowned for producing international cricket and rugby union stars.
These days the junior club Thompson played for, the Tauranga City Sharks (now Whalers), only have nine teams which range from under-5 to under-13 level, but a decade ago it was a gap in their senior side which presented Thompson with the chance to fall in love with rugby league.
"I was only 16 and ended up playing in the men's comp with my stepdad," Thompson told NRL.com as part of the 2016 Play NRL Round.
"That was a real standout memory for me. I went to watch my stepdad play and they were short on numbers so I ended up putting on his headgear and shoulder pads and playing in the open men's comp on the wing.
"I fell in love with the game that day I started playing for them.
"My mum rocked up and she saw me in the headgear and the shoulder pads and wasn't too happy about it at the time, but she quickly realised it was okay.
"I was nervous as and I didn't do much out on the wing, but my stepdad still cracks up about it to this day and thinks that it's pretty funny."
A short time later Thompson moved over to Australia, attending renowned rugby league nursery Keebra Park State High School.
Since then he has played 109 NRL games, taking the field for the Titans, Tigers and now Warriors.
The second-rower was also part of the Kiwis' 2014 Four Nations winning squad, and while he didn’t take the field in a Test, Thompson is thought to be the first Tauranga-raised player to be selected for the Kiwis as well.
Tauranga City Sharks stalwart Clint Lovett said Thompson is now a hero for the next generation of players at the club.
"He is a Tauranga boy who has made it, and he still maintains strong links to Tauranga with family here who are very proud of him," Lovett said.
"Bodene often makes trips back home and comes back to the club, the kids love it and he has run a few training sessions with the club.
"You are always a bit surprised when people you know go on to play in the NRL, but he always had great potential and he has done very well, and is proof that young players from here can make it to the big time."
Play NRL Round is focussed on encouraging people of all ages – from six to sixty and beyond, to sign up to enjoy their local footy – whether it be playing, coaching, volunteering, or refereeing.
For more information go to playnrl.com