Tupaea said an enthusiastic uncle started the fan club when he played 1st XV rugby at Hamilton Boys' High School, where he partnered future All Black Sevu Reece in the midfield. The fan club had a membership of one, although it had made its presence felt at Hamilton's FMG Stadium, he said.
Having already made his debut for the Māori All Blacks in Hamilton last year, something his father had always hoped he might achieve, he felt it would be a special occasion should he get to play in Hamilton when the All Blacks play Fiji on July 17.
Tupaea didn't think he would get selected but heard his name called out while watching the announcement with teammates during the Māori All Blacks camp in Wellington.
His mind went blank, he said. He was shocked but the reality set in a couple of hours later.
“There was a few cheers from the boys, which was cool. It was a pretty special moment.”
He didn't know what to think, but an emotional phone call to his parents was his priority.
"They just said they were super proud of me, and congratulations," he said. "They were probably just as shocked as I was."
Having suffered an injury that kept him out for eight weeks during the Super Rugby season, he said, playing for the All Blacks or Māori All Blacks hadn't been on his mind. All he wanted was to get out to play for the Chiefs.
"To get back for those last three games was awesome, and then there was a bonus being named in the Māori All Blacks, and then the All Blacks," he said.
"It's exciting. To be in the All Blacks set-up is awesome, and to learn off the experienced mid-fielders they have there is going to be pretty exciting. Getting in there and developing my game is pretty cool," he said.
Playing alongside All Black Anton Lienert-Brown for the Chiefs had been helpful in his development. It took a lot of pressure off him and allowed him to play his game.
He had also learned from Lienert-Brown's professionalism in preparing during the week before games while also utilising his time away from rugby to best effect and not spending the whole week thinking about rugby.
Tupaea said he felt confident with his ball-carrying ability, and he liked to think he worked hard around the field supporting players and contributing to defence.
He had been able to absorb the demands of learning playbooks and new systems in the two years he had been with the Chiefs and then applying them in games.