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4 days ago
Young winger Patrick Ah Van is relishing the NRL education he is getting by partnering experienced centre Brent Tate for the New Zealand Warriors.
Ah Van and Tate have been the Warriors' outside back combination on the right-hand side for the first four matches of the season and are paired again for the clash with the Bulldogs in Auckland on Sunday.
Ah Van, just turned 20, already has 31 first-grade appearances under his belt.
But off-season recruit Tate has well over 100, as well as 12 State of Origin matches for Queensland and 15 caps for Australia.
"He's a big influence," Ah Van said on Thursday, pointing in particular to Tate's tips on positional play.
"He's just teaching me and I've learned a lot off him so far."
Ah Van said their combination was still gelling, and would only get better as the campaign progressed.
The Warriors have been lifted by their home defeat of Newcastle last Sunday, six days after they were humiliated by Manly in Sydney.
Ah Van said "respect", as in the need to regain it after being dusted 52-6 by the Sea Eagles, had been a key word in last week's build-up.
He went on to score the decisive runaway try in the 26-20 victory over the Knights, grabbing an opposition crosskick deep on defence and racing 95m to dot down.
The Warriors have won both home matches this season and Ah Van described the Mt Smart Stadium crowd as a big factor in lifting the players' performance.
But he was also wary of a wounded Bulldog unit, beaten 40-12 last weekend by the Sydney Roosters in a grudge match in which former Bulldog Willie Mason scored two tries.
"They'll be like us, trying to get some respect back."
A Junior Kiwi, Ah Van said his thoughts hadn't yet turned to trying to force his way into the Kiwis for the end-of-year World Cup.
He had his hands full trying to keep his place in the Warriors with competition from the likes of Michael Crockett and Malo Solomona.
Crockett and Solomona both scored for the Auckland Vulcans last weekend in a 23-22 win over the Newtown Jets in the New South Wales Premier League.
"I'm just trying to play well and cement my spot," Ah Van said.
"I'm not looking that far at the moment. I'm just concentrating on my game from week to week."