Why Tapine could be the best prop in the NRL

If someone asked you to list the best props in the NRL, how long would it take to name Joe Tapine? Because the New Zealand front-rower is making a convincing case to be right on top of the list.

The fact Tapine is a Kiwi plying his trade in Canberra means he is often out of sight and out of mind for some, so take a moment to imagine if he was eligible for State of Origin this week.

The 28-year-old heard whispers about a perceived failure to reach his potential last year, so he shed some weight and today is arguably the form prop in a star-studded field including Origin big boppers Payne Haas and Josh Papalii.

Tapine has more post-contact metres than any other player in the competition. He sits fifth in the offload rankings and has cleared 200 running metres in four consecutive games. There is a strong case to say .

Now Tapine has outlined his desire to one day captain his club and country ahead of the Kiwis’ Test match against Tonga in rugby league’s return to Auckland on Saturday.

New Zealand coach Michael Maguire will hand the captaincy reins to Jesse Bromwich this week given the last man to lead the Kiwis – Benji Marshall in November 2019 – has retired.

But Tapine is a leader of the future, having already led the Maori All Stars in a man of the match performance earlier this year.

It’s one of my goals, to captain my country and the club. I’ve let Stick [Raiders coach Ricky Stuart] know that’s one of my goals. I aim for big goals and that’s one of them. I’m still working towards it, Tapine said.

Stuart believes Tapine has the ability to captain his country, adding many of the club’s emerging Polynesian prospects already look up to him.

Few could begrudge Tapine of the honour given his form for a Canberra side clinging to its finals ambitions.

Now Tapine is set to form one half of for a mean match-up in the middle against Tonga.

The Kiwis will be without Isaac Liu, who has opted to remain on the Gold Coast to be with his wife Jessica for the birth of their second child this week, as Tapine braces for a sea of red at Mt Smart Stadium.

I love it. The atmosphere is ridiculous, Tapine said. I’ve been waiting for this for a while. Going back to NZ to see my sister and my dad is going to be huge. I haven’t seen them in about three or four years, so it’s going to be emotional but it’s going to be good to play in front of them. It’s been a long couple of years.

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