TUIAKI OFF TO THE DOGS
By Wayne Cousins
Friday, 26 February 2010
The cult hero status of Wests Tigers winger Taniela Tuiaki has reached a new level in the form of exciting greyhound, Tuiaki.
A last start winner at Wentworth Park and the winner of 9 of his 21 starts, Tuiaki came face to face with Taniela Tuiaki at Wests Tigers training at Concord Oval on Friday, February 26.
Tuiaki gets his chance to sew up a spot in the heats of the $250,000 Macro Meats Golden Easter Egg at Wentworth Park on Saturday night when he starts favourite in the second of two Prelude events. The winner is guaranteed a spot in the Macro Meats Golden Easter Egg heats.
Taniela enjoyed the opportunity to meet Tuiaki and his trainer Neville Brown where the big winger got up close with his namesake. Taniela and Tuiaki both took to the treadmill for a photo opportunity before Taniela took the dog for a walk on the field.
“He’s a good dog. He is big, fast and black like me,’’ Taniela laughed.
“It is pretty weird but it is a good feeling to have a dog named after you.
“A couple of the boys went to a TAB one day and they saw my name up there. When they told me, it was pretty funny.
“The first time the boys backed Tuiaki, they won some money.
“Neville said it will be the favourite on Saturday night and I want it to win, especially seeing it has my name. Good luck to big Tui.
“I might have to put my first ever bet on Tuiaki. I know some of the boys will be backing him.’’
Whilst Tuiaki is tearing up the race tracks, it is a far different story for the powerful winger who underwent minor surgery last week on his ankle injury suffered against Parramatta in round 24 last year.
Although no set date has been determined for Taniela, he is walking freely without crutches and has been undergoing plenty of work with Wests Tigers rehabilitation manager Andrew Leeds.
“The injury is coming along well. There has been no more setbacks and hopefully I can get back on the park soon,’’ Taniela said.
“I now have a bit more movement in my ankle following the last operation.
“It is frustrating sitting on the sidelines and just doing cardio and rehab work when the boys are out there training and playing but I’ve just got to take my time with it. My time will come.”
As for the greyhound, Taniela already has plans for Tuiaki the next time they meet.
“Hopefully the next time I meet him, I will be able to take him to a dentist and get him a gold tooth,’’ Taniela joked.
“Now that I have met Tuiaki and seeing it is the favourite on Saturday night, I might have to put my first ever bet on. There will be plenty of the boys backing it.”
Trainer Neville Brown said Tuiaki already has a bit of a cult following. The 23-month old Tuiaki has won three times at Wentworth Park and boasts an impressive 43 per cent strike rate with nine wins from 21 starts.
He is a previous semi-finalist in the Group One Vic Peters Classic as well as the recent National Derby.
“Tuiaki was named by the breeder Geoff Cook. He is a mad Wests Tigers supporter and he named it after the winger, hoping he will be as fast as Tuiaki,’’ Brown said.
“When I’m walking to the boxes on race day, a lot of Wests Tigers fans have been yelling out ‘Tui, Tui’.
“I think Tuiaki’s chances are good this week. He is drawn in the right box, he is where he wants to be, and he is fit and well. I hope he goes as well as the big fella.”
top work Tui. Keep healing quickly & get back on the park!
& while we’re talking about greyhounds named after quality WT players this is ‘Tommy’. He failed greyhound puppy school and was dumped.
He’s named after a great who once wore the Magpies black and white. The dog is probably more athletic but the original had more heart!