Nofoaluma was one day from leaving Wests Tigers
Author Chris Kennedy Timestamp Wed 29 Aug 2018, 05:59 PM
Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma realises it was a risk to re-sign in a long-term deal at a club with questionable stability rather than cross town to one seemingly on the rise and this week admitted he was one day off leaving the club where he came through the juniors.
Nofoaluma would have had fresh reason to question his decision when dropped to reserve grade by coach Ivan Cleary for what would have been the first game of his new contract at the start of this season, but he says the experience helped him grow as a person and he is relieved he made the decision he did.
Early last year, Parramatta made a huge play for the tackle-busting Campbelltown junior as they sought to replace rugby-bound Semi Radradra.
They ended up empty-handed but went on to finish top-four while the Tigers endured a sixth straight season out of the finals.
Not only that but at the time Nofoaluma rejected the Eels for the Tigers, the joint venture had only just recruited Ivan Cleary to replace Jason Taylor, who had been sacked earlier in the season.
You wouldn’t have blamed Nofoaluma for following teammate Mitch Moses to the Eels at the time or for regretting his decision at times since, and he revealed this week it was a close-run thing until some late intervention by club CEO Justin Pascoe.
“I was one day off leaving,” Nofoaluma said.
“Prior to signing I had to make a tough decision on whether to go there or whether to stay. Our CEO Justin Pascoe and a few people in the staff made an offer to keep me at the club. I’m happy that it ended up that way and I’m looking forward to the next three years at the club.”
While it was a close-run thing, the winger said that was just part of the negotiation process.
“The decision that I made was very risky but in the end it was the right decision to sign on for a long term,” he said.
“Four years was also a big decision to make seeing as last year was a bit of a tough season and the club was in a place where we didn’t know where it was heading. To decide to stay and the outcome we’ve had this year, it’s made my decision, the risk I took, a good one.”
Nofoaluma has had a typically productive season since re-earning a top-grade spot, averaging 155 metres with 75 busts and 30 offloads in 17 games.
“At the beginning of the year I kind of learned a lot from what happened (bring dropped),” he said.
"In a way I’m glad it did because I’m always used to being in first grade. I don’t know if it was Ivan’s plan but it taught me a lot, to be more resilient and not take first grade for granted. In a way I’m kind of happy that happened and I’ve still got years to come.
“It was more my attitude, not being complacent … Ivan’s made it clear you’ve got to fight for your position. If you play the best and train the best in your position you’re going to get selected so I think that’s a good thing for a club.”
Nofoaluma, like the rest of the squad, is shattered the team’s finals dream officially ended one round before the finals. A win this weekend will push them to 13 wins and 11 losses and make them the first team of the 16-club NRL era to miss the finals with 13 wins.
Despite the disappointment, there are plenty of positives moving forward, according to Nofoaluma.
“Everyone was saying we were going to come towards the bottom of the ladder, even wooden spoon so from where we were last year to what’s happened this year I think everyone can be happy about the club going forward,” he added.
“We can only expect to be better next year. Those games during the year that we should have won, it’s cost us at this time of year. One thing we can take in as a team is we know not to rely on other teams to lose towards the back end of the year. If we set up our season earlier in the year it puts us in a comfortable position to play finals footy.”
Now that Nofoaluma is locked in at Concord long-term, he hopes to develop into a player like Benji Marshall or Robbie Farah – the sort of player fans are just happy to have at the club.
“Especially me being a junior of this club, it gives you that bit more something to play for,” he said.
"You can see how Benji and Robbie, when they left, they felt lost because they’re so used to playing at their club they feel they were born into. I think I’d feel the same if I was to leave.
“You see all the smiles on the fans faces and it’s because [Benji and Robbie] have done so much for this club over the years. For them to come back to their home club they were born into, there’s nothing better than seeing fans smiling.”