New Tiger earning his stripes
Tue 16 Feb, 2016, 5:00pm
By Martin Gabor, National Correspondent, NRL.com
New Tiger earning his stripes
Jesse Parahi always dreamed of one day playing in the NRL. In 2016, those fantasies could well become reality.
Having already conquered rugby Sevens, Parahi signed a one-year contract with the Tigers last season, meaning he would miss out on representing Australia at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
While he would love to add to the bronze medal he won at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Parahi has no regrets about his decision to switch to rugby league.
“The Olympics is still the pinnacle of sport, but I thought that this opportunity had come up at the right time for me, and I had to take it,” Parahi told NRL.com.
He might have earned a name for himself in the seven-a-side sport, but Parahi is no stranger to the rigours of rugby league.
“I played in the Bulldogs junior comp until I was 12, and then I moved to the Central Coast where I played league and union until I was 18,” the Tigers recruit said.
The transition to rugby league has been made easier by the fact he’s joined a side renowned for its attacking flair. Now he needs to get used to the brutal nature of the 13-man code.
"It’s been really enjoyable. I’m loving the change and it came at a good time for me. I’m learning a lot from these guys. They’ve all been really welcoming, taking me under their wings, so it’s been good.
"With Sevens you do a lot of running and it’s really tough in that aspect, but you don’t have the physicality that league has.
“You’re always in a wrestle or in a tackle, and you’re trying to break through a couple of players, so I guess that aspect has been a little bit more difficult for me to get used to, but I enjoy that side of the game.”
Despite his vast experience in Sevens, Parahi was a shock omission from the Tigers Auckland Nines squad.
The code-hopper was initially miffed at his snubbing, but understood the coaching staff’s decision when it was explained to him.
“I had the same question when I found out I wasn’t playing,” Parahi said of his exclusion from the Nines playing group.
“The coaching staff basically said that because the Sevens is a lot more similar to the Nines defensively than it is to thirteens, going to that would probably put me back. I didn’t want to fall back into old habits.”
Parahi was in line to make his club debut in last week’s trial against the Storm, but was a late withdrawal.
“I was in the captain’s run, and ran through the line and stepped on Lamar’s (Liolevave) foot and just rolled over and sort of got up and thought ‘I might be alright’, and tried to walk it off , but it was no good.”
“I had a rehab run this morning. It’s pulled up alright, so we’ll see how we go. If it’s good throughout the day, we might be able to train tomorrow.”
Should he overcome his ankle injury, Parahi is likely to play somewhere in the back-row, but even he isn’t 100 per cent sure what role he will play with the Tigers.
“I think they haven’t fully decided on that yet,” Parahi said.
“They’ve put me in at lock for training to sort of get my head around one position and they said they might teach me back-row and a few other positions just in case, so I might end up being a bit of a utility.”
The aggressive ball carrier is well suited to rugby league, and could prove to be a wildcard in the Wests Tigers pack.
Parahi has lofty ambitions ahead of season 2016, and is prepared to put in the hard yards if that means one day getting the chance to represent his country again.
"I want to play NRL. Obviously coming over here, I made the switch and took a big gamble not going to the Olympics. I’ll do everything I’ve got to try to get into the NRL this year.
“I’m going to put everything I can into playing NRL, and I’d love to play State of Origin and for my country one day, but that’s obviously a long way off and those are big goals, so I’ve got a lot of work to put in before then.”