Tapine just scratching the surface says Stuart
He is the skilful x-factor to the bash-and-barge that surrounds him but Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has warned opposition teams that outstanding 22-year-old Joseph Tapine is only just getting started.
Caught in the centre of protracted contract negotiations between the Raiders and his former club Newcastle, Tapine only moved to the nation's capital two weeks before the start of the season but has since played 13 games in the top grade.
On Sunday Tapine came up with a late offload that led directly to the second of Jarrod Croker's two tries late in the first half and then had no qualms standing up to Titans firebrand Greg Bird as things got heated in the latter stages of the second half.
Having lured him away from Newcastle on a four-year deal, Stuart said the addition of Tapine represented an important piece in the puzzle of trying to assemble a roster with the potential of winning a premiership.
"He was a big part of building a strong, healthy squad," Stuart told NRL.com of the Tapine signing.
"He's a wonderful player and it's only the start of his career. He's got a long, long way to go.
"Once he grows into playing more and more with the boys he will feel a little bit more naturally freer in that regard too as a player.
"He's only just starting to find his feet in terms of playing with a lot of the boys there."
Tapine's debut for the Raiders came ironically in Newcastle against the Knights in Round 3 and this Sunday he gets to welcome his former teammates to the cool climate of Canberra where the temperature is predicted to top out at 11 degrees.
While the reception for the Knights may be frosty on Sunday Tapine said he received a warm welcome when he arrived at the nation's capital, a move made easier by the support of his mother and also partner Kirsten Stanton.
Tapine travelled with the Knights to the Auckland Nines before the move to Canberra was finalised in late February and said the transition was made all the more smoother by Kirsten's ongoing support.
"At the start it was [tough] because I didn't really like change but once I was down there it was easy," Tapine said of the protracted negotiations.
"The missus came down with me and that made it easy as well.
"She came down straight away and she was the one that did all the house hunting and all that stuff because I'm not really that kind of guy and it's been a real help for me and I'm grateful she's there.
"She does everything for me when I'm at training. She prepares my food and laundry and stuff. She's helped me a lot and I'm thankful that she moved down with me."
With his team moving back into the top eight with their 30-22 win over the Titans and the Knights languishing in last position Tapine said he is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to renew some old acquaintances.
In seventh position but just one point outside the top four the Raiders have three home games and a bye in the next month in order to really press their claims for a top four finish at the end of the season.
Tapine believes that a reason for their strong position – and why he adjusted to his new surroundings so quickly – is the bond that exists within the playing group.
"When I first went I didn't know what to expect, I was just trying to make the team really but once you're in it you can see that we're a real tight-knit bunch of blokes," said the former Junior Kiwis representative.
"The boys welcomed me with open arms and it's been the same with Junior [Paulo].
"All us boys get along real good. We do team activities together so we're tight boys, like best friends pretty much and it's easy to come into a group like that.
"Heaps of the senior boys came up to me and let me know that I was welcome and it really helped with my start to the season."