Erin Clark is one of the brightest prospects the Warriors have in the lower grades right now, and despite being just 18 has already been fast-tracked into the reserve-grade side.
Earlier this year he also gained his first Test cap for Toa Samoa. We caught up with the former Manurewa High School student to get his thoughts on it all. (Main photo: photosport.nz).
KLC: The last couple of years have been big for you, going from a college player to an international, have you been able to take it all in?
EC: It’s been a big learning curve, I came in as a grassroots player and you are always learning game awareness stuff with the Warriors. It’s those little things you don’t really take into consideration in local comps, but it’s been good!
How did you come to link up with the Warriors originally?
I first started with Parramatta, I was with the Warriors’ development but Parramatta offered me something so I took that when I was 16, but then a few years later I felt that I didn’t want to move over to Australia. I got a release there and came home and then the Warriors offered me a contract. At that stage with Parramatta I was just going over to camps and playing SG Ball trials.
You were selected on the bench for Samoa earlier this month for the Test against Tonga, did that take you by surprise given you haven’t played NRL yet and are only 18?
I had heard bits of talk, but when it happened and I saw my name there it was amazing. I got a phone call from [Samoa coach] Matt Parish and he explained to me the whole situation – that they want to develop young hookers and halves – and I was lucky enough to be one of them.
And what was the experience like? Those game are notoriously physical…
Before I went into it I was told it is one of the toughest games I would ever play. I went in, tried my best to be confident and not care who else was there. But it was a dream come true to play at that level, and to do it without having NRL experience. I took it as another learning curve and took as much out of it as I could.
We have seen you used as a standoff, halfback and hooker so far, do you have a favoured position or one you think you are better at yet?
No, I am just playing each position and learning, I am still young and I still have heaps of time to cement my position. I am turning 19 in September, so there is plenty of time to sort that stuff.
You have played reserve grade, and in the Test against NRL players, do you feel as a result of that you are able to play above the rest at U-20 level when you are called back to the Junior Warriors?
I’m human and you can’t really dominate at U-20 level. All of the teams are talented and everything, you have just got to take it game by game. I don’t think I am dominating anything right now.
Historically the Junior Warriors have been one of the best U-20 teams going around. That isn’t the case this year and you guys have copped some big defeats, how is everyone dealing with that?
To be honest we kind of expect to have some struggles, we have got a young team and we are still learning, we have got all the skills and everything but it’s just those habits which you need to win. We are really lacking those at the moment in the team. I was like that when I came from local footy, and it’s exactly the same for all the others.
Your mum is Temepara Bailey (nee George), a Silver Ferns netball great, did that have an effect on you and your sporting goals growing up?
Not really, I just want to do it for myself. I just want to be me, my mum is my mum, but I want to make my own name for myself.
She is my mum and tries to tell me what to do; she thinks she is an ex-footy player I think! But she helps me a lot, keeps me grounded. She has been through it all and helps with those little things.
As a young guy at the Warriors, does all the off-field noise and media attention regarding the NRL side get to you?
I don’t think so. We are all one club, so we take the criticism as one and we leave it as one. We don’t worry about any of that stuff.
And how much time are you spending training with the first-grade squad right now?
I talk to ‘Cappy’ [coach Andrew McFadden] now and then and have done a pre-season with them, but at this stage I am just focussed on the NSW Cup side and 20s, doing part-time stuff.
Finally, off the field, what keeps you busy and what are you looking into in terms of life after footy?
I am studying a personal training course online and also doing some landscaping work, which I really enjoy. It’s a family company I work for and then studying on top of that is good because it’s online and works around my schedule. It’s a bit tough these days to fit study in with so much footy though!
Erin Clark bio
Date of Birth: 06-09-1997
Position: Five-eighth, halfback, hooker
Rep honours: New Zealand Residents 18s 2014, New Zealand Secondary Schools 2014
Junior clubs: Manurewa Marlins, Point Chevalier Pirates
Previous clubs: Otahuhu Leopards, Bay Roskill Vikings