Player Profile - Paul Whatuira

Paul Whatuira is one of a long list of players developed through the New Zealand Warriors to National Rugby League level but now hurting rather than helping the club.

He played five games for the Warriors under coach Mark Graham in 2000 but, disillusioned with the management under Tainui, decided to try his luck in Australia.

Spotted by a talent scout in Wellington, he was offered a chance at the Melbourne Storm with clubmate Henry Perenara. They took it.

But that did not work out for either. Whatuira was cut after six games in 2001 in which he played as injury fill-in at wing and in the second row.

He went to Brisbane Norths in the Queensland Cup, while Henry lasted another year at Melbourne and has now ended up at the Dragons.

Whatuira's luck changed when Brisbane Norths got the televised game one day. Penrith chief Shane Richardson was watching it and, before he knew it, he landed a trial with the Panthers.

He has never looked back, playing 12 games in 2002 and the whole season in the premiership-winning side last year.

He and partner Azai, from Taranaki, had settled in well, although "it's a fair way from the beaches and it's pretty quiet out here".

He still has lots of friends at the Warriors and was looking forward to the weekend's confrontation, one he knows that Warriors and Kiwis coach Daniel Anderson will be watching with interest ahead of next month's test.

Whatuira was in an extended New Zealand squad throughout October but didn't make the team.

The 22-year-old was told he had a future and wants to pursue that.

He rated the environment at Penrith as a reason for the turn-around in his fortunes.

"They look after you pretty well. You feel good about getting up every day to go to training. I've felt I'm learning something game by game with (coach) John Lang," he said.

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