When Jimmy Tupou lead the Blues onto the field in his first ever game for the club – our round one clash against the Rebels in Melbourne – he joined Zinzan Brooke as the only other player to captain the team on debut.
“That was only because James and Jerome were unavailable for that first match,” says Jimmy with characteristic modesty, “but honestly I was very honoured that Tana asked me.”
Jimmy, who grew up on a farm in Pukekawa and attended Pukekohe High School, played under Blues coach Tana Umaga when he was the coach of provincial side Counties Manukau, a team that the 24-year-old has captained for the past two seasons.
“One of the highlights of my rugby career so far was helping the boys win the Ranfurly Shield back in 2013,” he says proudly. “Probably the other highlight was representing New Zealand in the under-20s team that won the Junior World Championship in South Africa.”
Around the same time, Jimmy moved away from home for the first time, trading rural south Auckland for the comparative bright lights of Christchurch to take up a Super Rugby contract with the Crusaders.
“That was tough,” says Jimmy. “I was pretty young, so there were a lot of challenges, just being away from my family and learning how to be independent for the first time.”
He persevered and, in time, Jimmy found his rhythm – both on and off the field. Over the course of four seasons, he represented the red-and-blacks in 37 matches, gaining valuable experience training and playing alongside All Blacks Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, and Kieran Read.
But he’s pleased to be back home this year, representing the Blues. “It’s good to be back in Auckland – and not just because of my mum’s home cooking. I’m ready to give everything I can to the team.”
Standing at 1.96m and weighing 109kg, Jimmy is a gifted athlete and highly effective ball-runner who can play at either lock or loose forward. He’s dynamic and extremely physical, adding some extra strength and durability to our tight five.
Unsurprisingly, he cites Kiwi rugby league legend Ruben Wiki as one of his biggest inspirations during his formative years as a young player because he “never took a step backwards”.
“That’s how I aim to play – always moving forward, leading from the front, and never giving an inch.”
Jimmy has racked up 9 caps in his first season with the Blues.