Player Jazz Tevaga

Jazz Tevaga
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NameJazz Tevaga
Born04 September 1995 (Christchurch, New Zealand)
PositionLock, Hooker, Prop
Warriors Player Number#209
Warriors DebutRound 3 vs. Melbourne Storm, 20 March 2016
Warriors Career2016-
RepresentativeSamoa, Maori All Stars
Junior ClubBurham Chevaliers, Papakura Sea Eagles

Journey of Jazz: Mischief kid turned Warriors stalwart​

Corey Rosser

On the night before each of his deployments to a foreign war zone, Joe Tevaga would sit the eldest of his three children down and outline exactly what would need to happen in the event of him failing to return home alive.

While he found his own way of dealing with it and convinced himself the worst was never going to happen, two decades on Jazz Tevaga knows those conversations played a key role in shaping the man, and rugby league player, he has become.

But it's also probably the reason he spent most of his childhood being a self-described "little s***" who almost squandered the chance to be a professional footy player.

He is the product of two very different worlds colliding, but the right one ultimately winning out.

Tough love​

By the time he'd celebrated his 14th birthday, Jazz had already twice been banished to live with his grandmother in Samoa.

Mum Melissa had her hands full as it was. Jazz has a younger brother who has autism, as well as a younger sister, and with Joe often stationed overseas for work it was a lot to handle.

Jazz lasted a year the first time around and returned a fluent Samoan speaker, but when he was sent again after playing up at school as a teenager he successfully begged his way home within a month.

Once the family settled in Auckland, after earlier stints in Christchurch and Palmerston North, Jazz quickly found other habits to exist alongside rugby league, which included alcohol and partying.

"My mum didn’t worry about me, she knew I’d be fine, she had her hands full with my brother and sister," Jazz says.


Earlier, Joe tried to get him away from those circles by enrolling him at his old high school in the affluent Auckland suburb of Takapuna.

"The first day I went in to tour the school I saw them all wearing Roman sandals. I said ‘I ain’t wearing those’ and told him I wanted to stay with my mates out south," Jazz recalls.

It was around this time that Jazz was also having to grapple with the realities of his dad's career.

"I didn’t worry about him, I felt like I always knew he was going to come home, but it’s not until you look back now you realise he could have not come back."

When Joe was home he trained Jazz – who like him was obsessed with rugby league – in true military style, which resulted in his boy tending to be among the fittest players in his teams growing up, and among the most vocal when others failed to meet team standards.

A day and hangover to remember​

Bleary-eyed and still smelling of last night's liquor, Jazz was hardly the picture of rugby league dedication as he roamed around the field during an open trial for the Warriors' U-20 squad at the start of 2014.

His lack of preparation wasn't down to arrogance, he just figured he wasn't going to get picked anyway.

It'd been that way all through the grades, even at the national secondary school tournament when – with designs on following in the footsteps of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, who a year earlier had picked up a deal with the Roosters while playing at the tournament – Jazz put in a string of star showings to make the team of the competition, only to still be ignored by scouts.


"Our mate turned up the next day to take us to the trial and found us asleep in the garage. But he got us washed up, we went to the trial, dusty as, and just played like we normally played.

"From there I got invited to the pre-season... it’s a funny memory to look back on now and I was lucky I got picked."

He went on to be part of the title-winning Junior Warriors' team later that year and in 2016 joined 12 of his teammates from that side in becoming an NRL player.

Growing into 'the epitome of a Warrior'​

Now 117 games into a career which has seen him become one of the best interchange players in the competition, Jazz is a far cry from the kid who turned up hungover to trial for his hometown club.

After Shaun Johnson, he and Bunty Afoa are the club's longest-serving players and Jazz is now a leader among his peers.

When he looks back on the turning point, he credits the influence of Spencer and Carmen Taplin, the husband and wife duo who later end up running a home for young Roosters NRL talent including Latrell Mitchell and Joey Manu, who were coaching and managing the Papakura Sea Eagles U-20 team he played in.

"They were a huge part of my life and that stage I guess they could see potential in me and wanted the best for me," he says.

"They straightened me out and made me realise that if I was to get to where I wanted to get to, I couldn’t do this stuff anymore.

"I could have ended up down the wrong path easily. I’m not going to say I was going to end up in jail… but I could have easily been influenced, I’ll say that."

Spencer recalls being frequently tested by the diminutive hitman, but is in awe of the player and person he's become.

"As mischievous as he was, I could see why," Spencer says.

"He definitely tested me as a coach and taught me patience... he crossed the line a couple of times, but you'd bring him back and he'd eventually get it.

"But I am proud as and we are lucky to have been part of his journey.

"He's a total competitor... he's now the epitome of a Warrior."

After an injury-riddled season in which he's been restricted to just nine appearances, Jazz will be on hand to try and help the Warriors qualify for their first Preliminary Final in 12 years this Saturday against the Knights.

"I only want this club to be successful. Now we are getting success I am so happy," he says.

"I'm happy for my teammates, for the coaches and for the fans who have been through everything with us in the last few years."