Warriors forward Isaiah Papali'i has revealed his longstanding admiration for Martin Taupau ahead of his showdown with Manly's powerhouse prop on Saturday in Christchurch.
That admiration goes back a long way and initially had nothing to do rugby league.
The New Zealand internationals share a common passion for weightlifting, with Taupau's well-documented feats in the gym serving as inspiration for Papali'i through his teenage years when he was counted among New Zealand's top weightlifters, winning two Oceania titles back in 2014.
Now in his third season in the Telstra Premiership player, 20-year-old Papali'i told NRL.com he cherished any chance to test himself against Taupau.
"You could say I looked up to him, coming from the same sort of background where we both like to lift," Papali'i said.
"[Footage of him lifting] is everywhere, he is doing some crazy numbers. I always see it on social media and I do look up to him in that respect.
"I remember watching The Footy Show when he was doing a rowing machine competition and he almost broke the machine, he was moving it backwards and forwards and people had to stand on it."
Taupau was in devastating touch last week in a 26-18 loss to the Roosters, carrying the ball 21 times for 187 metres, 53 of which came after contact with defenders.
Limiting his damage on the ball is sure to be a primary focus this weekend for the Warriors, who allowed the Wests Tigers to run for 1645 metres in round two.
"[Taupau] has been a dominant carrier for so long … I am excited to get an opportunity to run up against him," Papali'i said.
"We have got a big challenge as a forward pack going up against those big boys. I am looking forward to doing it in front of a New Zealand crowd.
"Our forward pack is looking forward to it and I'm sure Manly are keen to get their season underway after a tough couple of rounds."
Veteran Warrior Adam Blair told NRL.com Papali'i had done all the right things after serving a one-match suspension – imposed by the club for an off-season drink driving offence – and that he deserved a return to the NRL side last week.
"Isaiah is a kid … it's a lesson for younger players coming into grade and understanding that we are professionals and you have to live every day as a professional," Blair said.
Sea Eagles v Warriors – Round 3
"He is remorseful for what he has done. He's worked his butt off through the pre-season and feels bad for missing out [in round one]."
After Papali'i played only 25 minutes off the bench last week, winger David Fusitu'a expected that number to increase significantly against Manly, with the Warriors down a middle forward due to the suspension of Sam Lisone.
"'Ice' [Papali'i] brings a lot of energy to our team. He's always bouncing around at training as soon as he gets in, and it's great to have him back in the side," Fusitu'a told NRL.com
"I definitely expect [him to play bigger minutes this week]. He's a fit boy and he gets around the park well, so he will be sweet."