04/05/1994 - WELLINGTON
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Athletic Wellington product Joseph Tapine became a New Zealand back-row regular after joining Canberra in 2016 – and eventually one of the game’s elite forwards following a shift to the front-row.

The Harbour City Eagles junior was an 18-year-old winger for Wellington Orcas in the NZRL’s National Competition, before taking up a contract with Newcastle. He played 39 games for the Knights’ under-20s team in 2013-14, representing the Junior Kiwis both years and breaking through for seven NRL appearances off the bench during the latter season.

Tapine made another 13 top-grade appearances in 2015 and featured in Newcastle’s NSW Cup grand final win at centre. The in-demand tyro was released by the Knights to take up a lucrative deal with the Raiders late in the 2016 pre-season.

The 22-year-old became a permanent interchange fixture for the high-flying Green Machine as the club surged to a preliminary final. He was subsequently named in the Kiwis’ Four Nations tour squad, debuting off the bench in an inauspicious draw with Scotland and retaining his spot for the loss to Australia in the final.

Tapine was chosen in New Zealand’s 2017 Rugby League World Cup squad and started in the second-row in all four matches, scoring his maiden Test try in the 74-6 rout of Scotland in Christchurch.

By now a regular starter for the Raiders at second-row or lock, Tapine endured an injury-hit 2018 campaign but played in the Kiwis’ midyear clash with England in Denver and came off the bench in two of the three Tests in England at the end of the year. He scored a try in the 34-0 dead-rubber victory at Leeds.

Tapine represented the Māori All Stars against the Indigenous All Stars during the 2019 pre-season and was a non-playing member of the Kiwis’ extended squad for the mid-season Test against Tonga. Though he was allowed to play in the World Cup Nines tournament, a one-match suspension for a high tackle in the Raiders’ grand final loss to the Roosters ruled Tapine out of contention for the Test against the Kangaroos in Wollongong.

But the aggressive, hard-running forward was recalled to Michael Maguire’s New Zealand line-up at lock for both Tests against the touring Great Britain Lions. He was especially impressive in the second encounter in Christchurch, racking up 112 metres, 39 tackles, three tackle-breaks and two offloads in a 23-8 victory

In an ultra-consistent campaign at NRL level in 2020, Tapine averaged 125 metres and 31 tackles per game as the Raiders reached the preliminary final – as well as making his 100th appearance for the club.

Tapine’s 2021 season was somewhat disappointing by his standards but he exploded as one of the NRL’s standout players in 2022 after settling into a role as starting prop for Canberra, earning a place in the Dally M Team of the Year and winning the Mal Meninga Medal as the Raiders’ Player of the Year.

The 28-year-old shone at lock during New Zealand’s 26-6 mid-season win over Tonga – racking up 162 metres and 36 tackles in his 12th Test outing – ahead of the Kiwis’ World Cup assault in England, where he started in four of their five matches.

Tapine passed the 150-game mark in Raiders colours during 2023 and played in all but one game as the club again reached the finals, while he collected a second straight Mal Meninga Medal before joining the Kiwis’ squad for their Pacific Championships assault.

The No.13 was a vital presence throughout the triumphant campaign, notching a try assist against Samoa, running for a team-high 149 metres in the group-stage loss to Australia, and leading all forwards with 197 metres and topping the Kiwis’ tackle count with 33 in the record 30-0 destruction of the Kangaroos in the final.


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