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Tiger Tuqiri can see a clear, green future ahead of him
March 26, 2010
The Wests Tigers winger won’t be looking over his shoulder this year, writes Glenn Jackson.
Lote Tuqiri was sitting in a grandstand overlooking the vacant expanse of grass at Concord Oval, recounting his reasons for choosing rugby league over union and explaining why he was happy he made the switch back. And one of those reasons was right in front of him - the expanse of grass.
‘‘I haven’t seen some open spaces for a while, and it’s one of the reasons I picked Wests Tigers, the way they play and the way they can set their back line and their wingers and their fullbacks and their centres free,’’ Tuqiri said. ‘‘Playing outside of that is a pleasure.’’
Another two factors behind Tuqiri’s positive outlook will be in front of him later tonight, as the Tigers back line faces two men whose job it will be to inflict pain on him and his teammates. Tuqiri describes both Jarryd Hayne and Timana Tahu as freaks.
That Tahu has, like Tuqiri, made a return to the sport after a period with rugby union, adds an intriguing element to the contest. And it is one Tuqiri relishes, given his respect for his rival.
‘‘We played each other before I switched codes and played with each other in the Waratahs and the Wallabies,’’ Tuqiri said. ''I’ve always respected Timana and how he goes about his business on the field. He’s an amazing athlete. He’s got speed, he’s got size and he’s apparently improved out of sight over the last six months since he’s been with the club.
‘‘I think rugby only got to see the best of him as he left. You didn’t really see his full potential in rugby. It was quite sad but I think he’s back to where he’s most happiest. It’s going to be scary to see how much he has improved. He’s a freak. They’ve got a couple of freakish athletes in that team, and they’ve got to be watched.’’
The other, of course, is the fullback who will be headlining freakish Friday. ‘‘He’s unbelievable,’’ Tuqiri said of Hayne. ‘‘He just keeps improving. He’s been the best player Parramatta’s had over the last 12 months, if not the best player in the comp. You watch the game last week [against Manly] - he’s dangerous from anywhere on the field. You can’t rest with him at the back there. We’ll try to nullify him but there’s only so much you can do.’’
Hayne, in fact, inspires Tuqiri in his own journey. ‘‘Everyone aspires to be at that level,’’ he said.
But so, too, do his own teammates, the likes of Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah, who have pricked his interest and intrigue in league again, but who have also made his transition easy.
‘‘What’s made it easy has been the team and the surroundings and the environment that I’ve been in, I guess,’’ Tuqiri said. ‘‘I can’t fault how the boys have taken me in, how they’ve treated me. I’m not fully where I want to be, but I’ve got a few years to do that.’’
It is clear Tuqiri is all about looking ahead, whether it be at freakish opponents or an empty football field, rather than behind him. Which, of course, means there are no harsh words for Australian Rugby Union officials who sacked him last year, a scenario that left him playing at the very same Concord Oval - for West Harbour rather than Wests Tigers - with a very uncertain future. He plans to take the ‘‘one step back, two steps forward’’ route.
‘‘What’s done is done,’’ the 30-year-old said. ‘‘I don’t want to dwell on the past. I’m pretty proud of how I handled that situation back then. Things happen for a reason, and I’ve landed on my feet here at the Wests Tigers. I’m looking towards the future.’’
He understands, though, there will be many waiting for him to fall again.
‘‘There’s always going to be those detractors out there, it’s part of life really,’’ Tuqiri said. ‘‘I knew within myself that if I came back … I didn’t want to let my teammates down and let myself down. That pressure will obviously build. Everybody’s still looking for me to fail but I’ve got a good environment here to succeed.’’
So far so good. Tuqiri scored a try with his first touch of his NRL return, and found the line again last Sunday via those open spaces.
‘‘The proof’s in the pudding,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve gained a few metres just by being on the end of a good back-line movement or a breakout. As a winger, you love those open spaces. I really can’t complain. You want to score tries and that’s what I’m doing.’’
Tuqiri……Quite simply: A Class Act!
thanks for signing once again, I would rather see you in a Tigers jersey and playing at Leichhardt Oval that eating a “dirty” (meaning good) hotdog and chips on the hill anyday!