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In what is his third fulltime NRL pre-season, a determined Joseph Tapine believes now is his time to up the ante in order to make personal advances at the Newcastle Knights.

After making his first grade debut in Round 9 of the 2014 season, the now 21-year-old has the experience of 20 NRL games to build on as he prepares for the 2016 season. 

“I’m taking this one as a step up,” he said told Knights TV at the Club’s pre-season training venue at the University of Newcastle. 

“I don’t want to be holding back and learning. I want to make a difference.”

He hopes delivering his best on the training track will bring him closer to his goal of becoming a regular in the Knights starting roster.

“My goal is definitely to play more minutes and more games, and to try to get in that starting squad and cement that," Tapine said.

“Personally I’m looking to work on my defence and being able to read plays better.”

As the athletic back rower edges closer to his goal, he keeps a close eye on more senior members of the squad for guidance. 

“Because I’m playing in the back row, I watch Tariq Sims and Robbie (Rochow) because they’ve played more games and I want to learn that position more,” he said.

On the other hand, Tapine is eager to offer leadership to the squad’s rookies taking on fulltime NRL pre-season training for the first time.

“I’m still young and learning, but any way I can help the young boys out I do,” he added. 

“They are pretty much the same age (as me). 

“It brings liveliness to the team which is good.

“My first season was an eye opener getting to know the professionalism and the fitness component.

“Now it’s the third one in, it doesn’t get any easier.”

As the pre-season schedule edges closer to the new year, the Wellington born Knight has begun to think about the possibility of featuring in the Auckland Nines tournament, played at the beginning of February. 

The tournament, which is hosted in Auckland on February 6 and 7, is the players’ first opportunity to take the field in 2016. 

“I definitely want to be a part of that. We just have to wait and see who the coach picks,” he said. 

“Hopefully I’m in that team because it will be good to go back and to see my family.”

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