Stat Attack: 'Junk yard dog' Jazz Tevaga a bench weapon for Warriors
What does an eye-catching 56 tackles in an historic and defensively heroic victory at St George Illawarra earn you? For Jazz Tevaga, it might very well be a new nickname, or at least some decent material for his Warriors teammates to come up with one.
The 22-year-old utility slayed the Dragons at nearly a tackle a minute in the Aucklanders' 18-12 victory last Saturday, their first against St George Illawarra in Wollongong in 11 attempts. He also contributed 125 run metres from 13 hit-ups in his 65 minutes at WIN Stadium as his impact off the bench continues to be, well, impactful.
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is loving the effort from Tevaga who is again named on the interchange for Friday night's home clash with Newcastle. So much so, he's even got a new pet name of sorts for the Samoan international.
"Geez, he's a little bit of a junk-yard dog if there's a bit of a term for him," Kearney said of Tevaga, who has covered just about every position in the forward pack for the Warriors this season.
"You know, he's not real pretty, he's not real big but what he has got is he's a scrapper. He's come up with performances like that a number of times this year," the coach continued on Radio Sport.
"He'll put his head where you probably don't want to be putting your head. He's a real tough kid. He's not blessed with some of the skills that a lot of the guys have, but what he does have is a big heart and he doesn't like to let the team down and that's a pretty handy quality to have also. I love having him in the footy team."
The feeling is mutual for Tevaga who has made all but one of his 15 appearances this season from the interchange bench; he started at hooker in the ill-fated 36-12 at the Gold Coast Titans.
He has designs on making the run-on side more regularly and not as a rake.
"I prefer lock... too much pressure on me when I'm at hooker. My passing doesn't go too well when I'm under pressure but still a lot of learning both roles," Tevaga said.
"I've still got a long way to go, lots of learning but that's the main goal (to lock down a starting spot)."
It helps having Kiwis back-rowers Adam Blair and Simon Mannering as mentors.
"It's just the game awareness I guess and doing it my way," Tevaga says of his teammates' advice.
"We've all got different attributes. I like to spin, use my feet and offload but it's the game awareness, when to do it. They're pretty mature footy players obviously so they've just taught me when the right time to do it and when it isn't."
Tevaga can't put a finger on the reason behind the Warriors' lacklustre 4-5 home record, nor the club's recent second-half struggles, but believes they'll be ready for the Knights.
He praised the influence on skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the team's strong defensive effort against the Dragons last week when it appeared St George Illawarra was mounting a comeback.
"We certainly like it tough. After they scored those two tries [just after half-time], Roger pulled us together and connected us back together. To hold them out scoreless after those two tries and win the game was a massive performance and just boosted our confidence coming off a tough loss against the Titans.
"You can't take this competition for granted. You've got to respect your opponents and we certainly learned that lesson the tough way against the Titans. We'll be preparing the same as we did against St George."