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Merely hearing Rocco Berry’s name draws out an involuntary smile and chuckle from the Warriors’ coaching staff and his teammates, reflecting the centre tyro’s popularity in the squad for indefinable off-field qualities as much as his more clear-cut attributes.

In a promising yet patchy start to 2024 for a team whose premiership window is wide open, Berry has been among the club’s most consistent players across the opening three rounds.

“I think he’s been excellent, Rocco,” said coach Andrew Webster after the Warriors’ tough 18-10 win over Canberra, before briefly interrupting his footy-focused answer as skipper Tohu Harris grinned like there was an inside joke we’re not in on.

“We love him, yeah, the mention of his name puts a smile on everyone’s face, for different reasons.

“There’s some flashy plays there, but there’s more hard work than anything.”

Likewise, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak’s face beams with happiness when asked about his right-edge partner’s rapid improvement and rousing start to the season.

“I’m loving playing outside Rocco, I’ve got the best seat in the house to see what he really does,” the winger said while clutching a fan-made poster of Berry snaffled from the Christchurch crowd to take home to his kids.

“We see what he’s doing and he’s getting better and better each week.

“He’s a good kid, eh, he’s young and he was the baby for quite a while … straight out of school and straight from rugby (union).

“He’s keen on learning, he’s a humble kid and he’s really liked by the group.”

One of the more unheralded members of the Warriors’ line-up, Berry’s high-level contribution to their first win of the season was hard to miss.

In a tense encounter with the Raiders – only his 34th in the NRL – the 22-year-old hit his mark in a series of big moments on both sides of the ball, including an early try-saver on Hudson Young to force an error, a superb in-goal take of a dangerous bomb and a slick touch in the lead-up to Luke Metcalf’s pivotal second-half try.

He was similarly impressive in tight losses to Cronulla and Melbourne – and absorbing individual battles with Siosifa Talakai and Reimis Smith, respectively – cementing his position in a well-stocked backline.

“I feel like our edge is building well, we’re starting to put together full performances and I’m just trying to get on the back of players like ‘Shauny’ (Johnson), do my job and be consistent with that each week,” Berry said.

Amid a cavalcade of career-best campaigns from established representative players, Berry was the breakout apprentice of the Warriors’ incredible 2023 resurgence.

But as the club was enjoying runaway-train momentum, he was initially left at the station, recovering from a foot complaint before an injury to Ed Kosi provided his first opportunity of season in Round 11.

By the end of the year, he had more than doubled his first-grade appearances tally and featured prominently in the Warriors’ drive to their first preliminary final in over a decade.

“I hadn’t played a consistent amount of games in my first few years at the Warriors and obviously being able to do that [last season], I got a lot of confidence heading into this season and getting a good, full pre-season in,” Berry added.

“I was playing with great players and I knew I had to be on my game each week to keep up with them. I just believed in everything ‘Webby’ was putting in front of us, the advice he was giving me and the belief he had in me.”

Playing his part in a compelling Warriors title bid is Berry’s sole focus for now, but maintaining his current form will surely see him come into calculations for Stacey Jones’ inaugural Kiwis team later in the year, particularly if Roosters ace Joey Manu opts to leave the game at the end of 2024.