Tapine goes from gutting chickens to tearing into Roosters

Joe Tapine's Canberra career started with hate mail and a multimillion-dollar deal so lucrative it left Nathan Brown speechless.

But a few years earlier the Kiwi international found the "good money" literally ripping chickens to pieces.

Nearly four years since arriving at the Raiders after an ugly contract spat with Newcastle, Tapine shapes as a key grand final weapon in his 100th NRL game against the Roosters five-star forward pack.

It turns out he had plenty of practice during his formative years.

"For a year I worked at Inghams chicken factory in Newcastle when I was in under 20s," Tapine tells NRL.com.

"When you go buy a chicken fillet - it comes with big bones and then little knuckle bones around it as well.

"So I was cutting out the big bone out and getting those little ones out too. It was repetitive as anything, that'd be a full day starting at 6:30-7am, working until 3.30-4. But it was actually good money.

"The chicken factory [salary] was better money than we got for under 20s. In 20s you got nothing, it'd cover your rent with the living away from home allowance, so I'd live off my chicken money."

It was big bickies and drama to match soon arrived for Tapine when the Raiders went all-in for him at the start of 2016.

With a three-year deal that pushed up over $2 million once options for additional seasons were included, then-incoming Knights coach Brown was stunned, then congratulatory.

Still just 21 and with only 20 NRL games to his name, all and sundry agreed Tapine simply couldn't turn it down.

But the situation turned sour quickly when Newcastle told him to train on his own, the club taking a stand after several rival raids on their best talent.

"People were saying a lot of things back then," Tapine recalls of the two-month spat before he was eventually granted an early release.

"And there were a lot of times in that period where I was having to deal with all that by myself, that's another story.

"It was tough. There was hate mail from fans. I'd get that and think 'jeez, I'm looking after my family here'.

"The passion's great, but [supporters] don't really see the other side of it for players. At the time I needed a new start and Sticky offered me that, I was happy to take it.

"Sticky has always supported me. From the moment we lined up the move and I got down here. It was the right decision. I was a bit scared at first coming down to Canberra.

"You come down for a game and you'd sit in the hotel for a day waiting for your game with nothing to do. 'Boring, cold' you'd hear. But now this is home, I love it here and I'd love to play the rest of my career here if I can."

Joseph Tapine in reserve grade for Newcastle in 2015.
Joseph Tapine in reserve grade for Newcastle in 2015. ©NRL Photos

Raiders recruitment officer Peter Mullholland was the one who found Tapine as a Kiwi teen, delivering him to the Knights along with Mona Seumanufagai – the cousin former Tigers and Sharks prop Ava Seumanufagai.

Mulholland recalls making the trip to New Zealand to watch future Sharks forward Braden Hamlen-Uele, only for a dislocated shoulder to floor the prop and Mulholland to return with Tapine's signature instead.

"That under 18s trial, I remember copping a busted nose but I went alright and had a bit of interest from clubs, the Warriors and a couple over in Aussie," Tapine said.

"My mate Mona had interest too from Newcastle and that was a big factor in me going there, having my best mate at the club.

Match: Roosters v Raiders

Grand Final -

Full Time
Roosters

Home Team

Roosters

Scored 14 points
Raiders

Away Team

Raiders

Scored 8 points

Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network

"He's actually going to be in my line for my wedding in a few weeks' time. We went through a lot together at Newcastle together in those early years, homesickness and all that."

Tapine will tie the knot with long-time partner Kirsten Stanton a week after Sunday's decider, his one free weekend in October given New Zealand Test duties are also on the calendar.

"I'm more nervous about the game than the week after. At least I know what's going to happen in the wedding."

Tickets for the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final 2019 are now on sale to the general public.

Tickets are available through Ticketek and nrl.com/tickets.