For Jesse Arthars, the Covid-19 pandemic eventually came with a silver lining.
Stuck in a logjam of talent in the centres at the Brisbane Broncos, the 23-year-old was offered the chance to join the New Zealand Warriors on loan for the 2022 season, after re-signing with Brisbane until the end of the 2023 season.
The deal would see him join the Warriors for a season, before returning to Suncorp Stadium. Offering both a higher chance of game time and the opportunity to live out a childhood dream, it was an offer the young Kiwi didn’t need to think too hard about taking up.
“It’s the only team we have back home and I just remember turning on the TV, watching the Warriors on weekends, supporting them – I had the jerseys back in the day and me and my brothers used to run around in them,” Arthars recalled.
“I think just being a Kiwi and being able to represent the Warriors is massive. For someone who has been living in Australia for a long time, I never thought I’d get the opportunity.
“For me as a young Kiwi boy, taking up this deal wasn’t that hard of a choice.”
It was an opportunity that may not have come had the Warriors not been forced to spend another year based in Australia, but proved perfect for Arthurs.
Born in Auckland, he moved to Australia with his family as a teenager and joined the Melbourne Storm Under 20s system. He spent two seasons there before signing on with the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2018.
It wasn’t until 2019 that he made his first-grade debut, while signed with the Gold Coast Titans. He had 12 appearances for the Titans before joining the Broncos the following year.
Since joining the Warriors, Arthars has immersed himself not only in the team culture, but the New Zealand culture as the club has worked to make sure they bring a feeling of home into the dressing room while offshore.
“I’ve been in Australia for a long time now, and to be back at this club, representing New Zealand and being back around the Māori culture, it’s been really refreshing for me,” Arthars said.
“I moved over as a young kid so I didn’t really learn too much of that side of my culture. To now be in the Warriors and be back around that culture that they’re building, it’s been pretty cool. I can identify as Māori and I just feel proud to represent the club and to represent New Zealand.
“When I came here, I just wanted to put in a good impression to the players and the coaching staff. With the culture they’re building here, I knew the foundations were going to be working hard and just being a good person, so I just wanted to make sure when I came here I was just working as hard as I could – just talking to the players on and off the field to build those relationships, because it helps going into the season.”
The move has been a great fit for both sides early in the season – Arthars has earned consistent playing time and the Warriors have gained a consistent attacking threat on the edge.
In four appearances this season, Arthars has scored three tries including a double against his parent club in the Warriors’ 20-6 win over the Broncos. He also averages a linebreak per game, 85m with ball in hand and is making 93 per cent of his tackles.
Reflecting on his introduction to the club, Arthars admitted he didn’t immediately come to grips with the situation – with moments like meeting Shaun Johnson for the first time leaving him starstruck.
“To now be able to play with him, it’s pretty wicked. I’m loving being on his edge,” Arthars said of Johnson.
While he appears to have cemented his place in the No 3 jersey, Arthars was coy on the possibility of his career with the club extending beyond the 2022 season, as he remains on contract with the Broncos for another season.
“It’s been really exciting, not just for myself, but for my family. I’ve been in rugby league systems for a while now, and anything can happen. I’m just really enjoying my footy, especially here and the club, and we’ll just see what the future holds.”
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