Rocco Berry during his NRL debut. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

LEAGUE

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Coming from rugby-mad Wairarapa hasn’t stopped Rocco Berry realising his dream of playing for his beloved NZ Warriors in the NRL.

The son of former All Black and Wairarapa-Bush legend Marty Berry made his debut in the AAMI Park cauldron in the traditional Anzac Day clash against the Melbourne Storm.

He backed it up with a strong performance in the Warriors’ 24-20 victory over the North Queensland on Sunday, including scoring his first try after taking the final pass from captain Roger Tuivasa-Scheck.

“It was a pretty cool moment, Roger did all the work, and to score a try off him was definitely a special moment. I was stoked,” Berry said.

After only seven games in the 13-player code Berry, 19, is already turning heads, enough so that he penned an extension to his contract to the end of 2024 this week.

“I’ve grown up being a Warriors’ fan since I was a little kid and to have my future here sorted it is something I couldn’t wait for.

“It’s a club I want to be part of long term, so I’m going to get my head down, work hard and put my best foot forward whenever I get the opportunities.”

Although impressing with how quickly he is adapting to the rigours of the world’s toughest league competition, Berry knows he has a lot to improve on.

“It’s been a crazy couple of weeks playing my first couple of games. My debut was a bit of a blur.

“Obviously, I’m new to the game and I’m learning something new each week from the coaches and the players around me.

“But I’m trying to get used to the physicality, I guess, and playing against men too.

“And definitely the speed of the game. Coming from schoolboy rugby it’s obviously a lot slower, and the contact playing against professionals, week in and week out.”

Berry, who was a star fullback for the St Patrick’s Silverstream first XV less than two years ago, said there were still a few old habits from rugby union that he needs to break.

“I get up really quick off the tackles, there’s definitely some things from rugby that have stuck with me and I’m trying to get out of those habits.”

Although his parents Marty and Andrea earlier this year moved to just an hour up the road from the Warriors’ Gosford base to Newcastle where Marty is coaching rugby, Rocco said he still has a lot of contact with his hometown.

“I keep in touch with a lot of my friends and family from back there and they’re all pretty happy for me. I’ve got lots of good memories of Greytown, and it’s a town I’m proud to be from.

They’ve helped me out a lot,” he said.

“It’s a rugby dominated place and I grew up being a rugby boy there, but I thought it would be cool to make it at an NRL club, and that’s something I’m pretty happy with.”

As for the words of wisdom before his debut from his father, Rocco said it was simple.

“He just told me to go out there and give it a crack and go hard, and that was it pretty much.”

Berry has been named in the centres to play his third NRL game, against the Manly Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval on Sunday.



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