IF IT wasn't for a case of homesickness, Carlos Tuimavave's first-grade dream might not be coming true at Mt Smart Stadium this afternoon.
A star talent as a youngster, Tuimavave, who is likely to feature on the Warriors interchange bench against the Sharks in his NRL debut, was snapped up by the Bulldogs when 16 and moved to Sydney.
While his footy improved, the 20-year-old missed his family and Auckland. A trip home and a meeting with Warriors recruitment boss Dean Bell changed his path.
''I was actually a bit homesick,'' Tuimavave said. ''I came back for a holiday and Dean Bell approached me and said, 'If you want to stay here and play for the Junior Warriors, we'd be keen to have you'.
''I thought about it. I decided I wanted to stay here with my family. That way I'll be happy and when I'm happy, I'll be playing good footy.''
Tuimavave was a crucial part of the under-20 team's two Toyota Cup titles, in 2010 and 2011, and was rewarded with a place in the first-grade squad for the 2012 season.
While his place in today's clash comes courtesy of an injury to star rookie centre Konrad Hurrell, a former teammate in the under-20s squad, coach Brian McClennan has been impressed by what the former stand-off has to offer.
''He's a fine young talent and he's been playing some good footy for the [Toyota Cup],'' McClennan said. ''He gives us the option of being able to cover a few positions, which is really handy to have on the bench.
''It gives us a bit of confidence … If a back went down, we could pretty much play him in any position. He's fast, he's skilful, he's brave. He's everything you want in a rugby league player, so it's a good opportunity for Carlos to see what he can do.''
Tuimavave admits he has been a little nervous this week but is confident he'll be ready to match up against the slumping Sharks.
''I'm still a bit surprised at the moment,'' he said. ''I was told on Tuesday I would be coming off the bench. Definitely nervous, but it still doesn't feel like I'm going to play first grade this week.''
He said McClennan has believes he could play in the centres or even at fullback in the future. He is open to a move to any spot on the paddock, as long as he gets on it.
''Before I came into the Juniors, I was originally a centre. When I came to the Warriors, that's when I first started playing five-eight, so I don't mind centre or five-eight, I'm comfortable in both positions. Playing in the halves in NRL, it doesn't get much harder than that.''