Fonua pumped up for clash with Bulldogs after week in reserve grade
By Christian Nicolussi - 25 May 2018 — 4:31pm
There is one Wests Tigers player returning to first grade who surprisingly wants to give it to the Bulldogs on Sunday even more than Mr Belmore himself, Josh Reynolds. Mahe Fonua has quickly been recalled from reserve grade after being punished for arriving late to a Sunday morning training session. And Fonua, affectionately known as The Mullet Man, has vowed to make it up to his mates. "He’s so pumped for this week,’’ teammate Corey Thompson told Fairfax Media. "As soon as he was late to training, he got us all together in the locker room and told us he was disappointed in himself and would work his hardest in reserve grade to get back and get that call-up. "He had a good game and he’s back and he won’t make that mistake again. "I’ll be playing outside him this weekend, I’ll just let him run over four people and then I’ll make my run.’’
Fonua was the standout for the Tigers a fortnight ago when he terrorised North Queensland with his barnstorming runs at left centre. Bizarrely, Fonua failed to poll a single vote in the Dally Ms. When Fonua was late to Concord Oval, coach Ivan Cleary and the five captains did not hesitate sending him back to reserve grade as punishment. Tui Lolohea, who played in the World Cup with Fonua, as well as his Bulldogs centre opposite Will Hopoate, said: "It wasn’t easy coming down after a good performance the week before. "But he took it like a professional and had a big game for us. He’s a strong bugger. "It will be interesting between [Fonua and Hopoate] and can’t wait to have a laugh with both of them afterwards.’’ While Fonua, complete with his gold teeth, tattoos and pot belly, will be impossible to miss, it is also a huge and emotional afternoon for Reynolds.
The heart and soul of Canterbury before he was squeezed out of the club and picked up by the Tigers, Reynolds could not have timed his return from a shoulder injury any better. He had privately been telling teammates for a few weeks how pumped he is for the Canterbury clash. The ANZ Stadium ding-dong westie battle will also feature former Tigers skipper Aaron Woods up against his former club, while Thompson spent two seasons at the Dogs, including their 2014 Grand Final.
"Grubby is so pumped for it, we almost have to tie him to a seat at training so he relaxes a bit,’’ Thompson said. "It will be a great atmosphere and hopefully he goes off. "You need players like Mahe and Grubby for when your backs are against the wall and you need that spark and energy to give everyone a lift.’’
Thompson decided to leave Canterbury when then coach Des Hasler could not guarantee him a regular starting spot, so packed his bags for England where he spent two seasons before the Tigers showed interest. While he shifted from his preferred fullback role for Lolohea, Thompson was happy to be playing each week. “I still know a lot of the boys at the Dogs and I’m close to them,” Thompson said. "I wasn’t moving forward at the club, I didn’t want to play reserve grade and only get my shot when someone was out. There was an option to play regularly in England, and Des said if I wanted to play regular first grade and build my confidence and experience, over there was a good option. “The goal was to always come back and play in the NRL, and I’m thankful the Tigers gave me that chance.”