Willie Talau, a man who knows what it takes to carve out a career in the NRL, reckons “the sky is the limit” for his teenage son.
The Wests Tigers named Tommy Talau to replace injured centre Moses Mbye for Thursday’s crucial clash against Manly at Brookvale. The 19-year-old is one of the club’s most promising playmakers and has already represented the Australian Schoolboys and NSW at under-18s State of Origin level. While he normally plays in the halves, coach Michael Maguire has slotted him into the three-quarter line for his NRL debut.
If he has a fraction of the success of Willie Talau, then the Tigers have a good one on their hands. Talau snr made more than 100 first-grade appearances for Canterbury, represented the Kiwis 13 times and also had a distinguished career in the English Super League. The 43-year-old couldn’t be more proud to see Tommy get his opportunity.
“I’m really excited for him,” Talau said. "He’s definitely got the work ethic. The sky is the limit for him.
“I coached him at SG Ball and Harold Matts at the Bulldogs, as well as the stuff we do around home. Tommy is enthusiastic about his footy and is really easy to teach to be honest, he loves it. He takes on criticism well and tries to improve every week. That’s all you can ask for.”
The Tigers signed Talau for this year after the five-eighth became the Bulldogs’ leading tryscorer en route to last year’s SG Ball grand final appearance. The Moorebank Rams junior has made the jump from Jersey Flegg to Canterbury Cup with the Tigers, averaging more than 100 metres and four tackle breaks per game, as well as scoring four tries in nine games. He gets to run out against the Sea Eagles after being upgraded to the club’s top-30 squad before the June 30 deadline.
“Tommy is extremely competitive and just loves footy,” Willie Talau said. "He loves to learn about it, he’s a student of the game, always asking questions. He watches a lot of games on tele and tries to gather as much information as he can.
“Tommy never supported a team when he grew up, he supported players. The Melbourne Storm players, he loved Cooper Cronk because he is a half. (Cameron) Munster and Billy Slater were among his favourites, all the exciting ones.”
Tommy Talau didn’t feel any pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps, whether it be playing football or opting to leave Canterbury.
“It’s weird, I’ve always just been dad,” Willie Talau said. "Our relationship, when I’m the coach I’m coach, but as far as what I’ve done before it just goes straight over the top of his head.
"The decision to leave the Bulldogs was totally Tommy’s. He thought he needed to go somewhere fresh, he was 18 turning 19 and I thought it was time to make his own decisions.
"It was no disrespect to the Dogs, he just wanted a fresh start somewhere else.
"He got a great opportunity to do that with the Tigers and it just happened. He’s made the decision and backed himself.
“On a personal note I’m over the moon for him. Obviously I have a great understanding of how hard it is to get there, all the effort and sacrifices that go into making your debut. It’s also the start of a career, so we’re excited and can’t wait to see him run out.”