Tigers won’t rush giant rookie into NRL
Martin Gabor Wed 15 Feb, 2017, 12:10pm
By Martin Gabor , National Correspondent , NRL.com
Opposition defences can breathe easy with Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor confirming he won’t make the mistake of rushing boom rookie Taniela Paseka into the NRL before he’s ready.
While he might not be a household name yet, Paseka is regarded as one of the most promising props coming through the Holden Cup system, and after one look at him it’s easy to see why.
The 19-year-old is a 199cm, 124kg lean, mean wrecking machine who showed enough in his first season at the club to be named the Tigers NYC Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year for 2016.
The Junior Blue was eased into the under-20s system and quickly developed into an unstoppable force capable of churning out big minutes in the front row and changing the complexion of a game with a monster shot or a bulldozing carry.
Having re-signed until the end of 2018, the hulking Paseka has been promoted to the Tigers’ extended NRL squad this season but Taylor says it would be counter-productive to rush him into the first-grade side too soon.
“We’ll take it slowly with Taniela but we see enormous potential in him. He had a great season in the NYC team last year so we’re excited about his future,” Taylor told NRL.com.
"This is the second time that he’s spent time with us in pre-season. Last year he did a day a week so this isn’t foreign to him.
“His pre-season has been a little bit limited because he’s had a couple of injuries that have held him back a bit. He’s just coming back from a shoulder that he hurt in training.”
While clearly impressed with Paseka’s potential, Taylor said the best approach would be to take a more cautious route with the prop’s development.
“Size is only one part about playing in the NRL. There are a lot of players who are going to let him know that they’re around,” he said.
“We don’t want to make the mistake of pushing him into first grade before he’s ready. But if he shows us that he’s ready then we’ll definitely give him a go. The signs in the pre-season have been really good but there’s still a bit of work to do.”
Tigers prop Tim Grant echoed his coach’s sentiments and said the onus was on the senior playing group to help Paseka make the transition from a Holden Cup behemoth into an NRL mainstay.
“You don’t really want to say too much to put pressure on him, but he’s definitely got all the attributes to make a good first-grader, that’s for sure. He’s only 19 and he’s got a lot to learn so it would be unfair to put pressure on him,” Grant told NRL.com.
"Like any big guy in the NRL, he’s difficult to tackle. But I think once he develops a bit and learns what he’s working with he’ll be a massive threat.
"There’s no use having good young kids if you don’t have senior players who are willing to help them out. That’s not just limited to on-field stuff because our role is to also teach them how to handle themselves off the field and how to be a professional.
"Here at the Tigers we have a good mix of senior players and we’re doing all we can to lead those younger boys and show them how to be a professional. There are no days off in the NRL, you’ve got to be on your game all the time, you’ve got to prepare your body the best you can and there are no shortcuts.
“He’s a good young kid, he’s willing to learn and he trains really hard. I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him if he continues to work hard.”