Storm forward Joe Stimson against Wests Tigers in Round 4.

The Storm's smiling assassin

Joe Stimson is as relaxed as they come, but one moment during pre-season caused the young Storm forward some anxiety.

"I was at wrestling and warming up," he said. 

"I could see Jessie Bromwich, big Nelson (Asofa-Solomona), Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and just going, 'how am I going to tackle these guys?' It was pretty mind-blowing." 

Picturing Stimson overawed is hard. He's a laconic, cheerful figure, and greets you with a handshake and a warm smile. He's chatty and talks quickly.

The 21-year-old has enjoyed a swift rise to NRL honours this year, featuring in 15 games and establishing himself as a reliable member of the Storm's forward pack. 

He grew up in Temora, a tiny town 400 kilometres south-west of Sydney in the Riverina area. The city is known mainly for its agriculture – producing lots of grain, cereals and honey – with a couple of schools, a railway station and some shops. There's not much to do apart from enjoying the outdoors.

Temora is rated New South Wales' friendliest city. It could be why Stimson is so cheery. Is it a happy place to live?

"I can vouch for that," he said.

"I really enjoyed it. I loved the freedom I had. I'm lucky enough my mum didn't buy me PlayStations or anything like that. 

"I was outside a lot with my brothers and my mates. There wasn't much to do out in Temora. Most days we used to go up to Nixon Park and kick the footy." 

Stimson's family has strong rugby league pedigree. His uncle (Mark) played 92 games for Balmain and Wests Tigers while his dad (Peter) played a season at South Sydney. Stimson loved growing up with footy all around.

"Dad was a massive influence growing up," he said. 

"I used to always love going up to training with him when he was up at the (Temora) Dragons. I just begged him to play backyard footy with me when I was young. 

"Dad was probably a bit annoyed by it, but I loved every minute. I really enjoyed watching Dad play, just on tapes and stuff like that, and enjoyed hearing all the stories about him. I liked the way he played as well – a tough, no nonsense footy player."

Stimson joined the Storm's under-20s and Queensland Cup side and impressed enough to be awarded the club's inaugural Feeder Player of the Year in 2016.

He says he's already exceeded his expectations so far.

"I was only expecting to have a couple of game this year," he said. 

"That was my goal, but I was pretty fortunate with Tohu's injury that it gave me an opening and I've just looked to try and grab it with both hands. I've been lucky enough to string a few games together."

He's also not bothered about the fierce competition for spots in the NRL team. But it doesn't stop his mum asking if he's playing each week.

"It's funny. Mum is always like, 'are you in this week mate?' And I say, 'I'll find out Thursday, I'm not too sure'. I reckon it's a good thing. You want every session to be your best session."