Lote’s return is really so strange
July 1, 2010 - 5:49PM
Lote Tuqiri hopes Brisbane fans have “a bit of love” left for him when he returns to Suncorp Stadium as an NRL player for the first time in more than seven years.
Tuqiri’s long and winding road will finally lead him to the door of his former club on Friday night when his Wests Tigers meet the Broncos.
Test matches for the Wallabies and Super rugby games for the Waratahs at Suncorp were one thing, but playing against the jersey he wore from 1999-2002 will be more than a little strange.
“We just did the video session then and it was a bit weird having played in that jersey before,” the 30-year-old told reporters on Thursday.
"But what do you do? You just get on and do what we’re trying to do here at the moment.
“When you do think about it, it’s very weird.”
Tuqiri jumped codes in 2003, playing 67 Tests for the Wallabies before his contract with the Australian Rugby Union was abruptly terminated for an unspecified breach of team discipline.
He returned to the NRL this year on a three-year deal with the Tigers.
The dual international admitted he had circled the match when he first looked at the Tigers’ draw for 2010, but he is unsure what sort of reception he will get.
“Hopefully Brisbane’s still got a bit of love for me but we’ll see once I run out and do the warm-up,” he said.
“We’ve just got to bounce back from (a 34-10 loss to St George Illawarra) last week … I’m more concerned about that and hopefully getting a win on the board.”
Tuqiri won a premiership with the Broncos in 2000 and said the club’s winning culture was still on display a decade later.
“You know with Brisbane they’re going to turn up no matter what,” he said.
"They’ve got a good culture up there and a good team ethos.
“Their young blokes are really stepping up … they had a good performance against Souths up there last time when their players were out (on State of Origin duty).”
Bennett and Dell showed Lote way to face Broncos GLENN JACKSON
July 2, 2010
LOTE TUQIRI never thought it would happen. But what really got him thinking, that it might actually be possible to oppose the Broncos, was that Wayne Bennett and Wendell Sailor, two Brisbane legends, did just that.
‘‘I always thought, if I did play league again, I’d be playing for them,’’ Tuqiri said. ‘‘It never entered my mind that I’d be playing against them. Things obviously change, and I’m where I am now, playing for the Tigers. I guess what helped me make a decision was big dog Dell and Wayne moving clubs. It made me really think about it, made it a possibility. It could be done.’’
And it has been. So fresh from a clash against Bennett’s St George Illawarra, Tuqiri now faces the team where he made his name. ‘‘I never thought it’d actually happen, me playing against the Broncos,’’ he said. ‘‘I left there with a lot of good memories.’’
Many of them are fading, not just because of the time elapsed, but because there are few former teammates still involved at the club. Of the young Brisbane squad which faces him tonight, only Corey Parker has played alongside Tuqiri. Darren Lockyer is in Origin camp, Justin Hodges is injured. The rest are Brisbane’s future, although he was coached in the lower grades by Ivan Henjak. ‘‘The thing that’s probably making it easier is the fact that there’s not many players that I’ve actually played with,’’ Tuqiri said.
‘‘It’ll be a bit weird, but what do you do? You go out there and play. Hopefully the Brisbane crowd will still be good to me.’’
They have so far. At Suncorp Stadium, Tuqiri has very rarely been on the other side. At Brisbane, he was a star, as he was during his Origin games at the ground. Even when he made appearances in the sky blue of the NSW Waratahs against the Queensland Reds, he recalled being treated rather kindly for someone walking out of the away dressing rooms. ‘‘I just don’t know what to expect,’’ he said. ‘‘When I played for the Waratahs, it wasn’t too bad a reception. But other than that, it’s always been for the positive team, the team that’s at home. I don’t know. I guess I’ll see when I run out and warm up.’’
More than just the personnel has changed at Brisbane. When Tuqiri last played for the club, the Broncos used to suffer badly during the annual State of Origin drain. This year, with slightly less representation than usual, they have won six from seven matches.
Tuqiri is wary, knowing how good the production line is at the club, which has spat out Matt Gillett and Corey Norman in recent times.
‘‘We’ve probably been blessed a bit ourselves that we haven’t had any players leave [for Origin],’’ Tuqiri said. ''But it’s on us to try and maintain what we’ve been doing. The pressure’s probably on us to try and get out of that bunch of teams between third and ninth.
‘‘We’d rather kick on than be in that mix.’’
Tuqiri said he had been able to brush off his own absence from Origin this year, despite admitting when he signed with the Tigers that playing again at that level was a major goal.
‘‘Queensland have always been loyal,’’ said Tuqiri, who has six Origin caps and has spoken to Maroons coach Mal Meninga several times through the series. ‘‘I know that. It’s hard to break into a team going as well as they’re going.’’
Despite failing on that goal, the dual international is content with his return to rugby league.
‘‘I’ve been enjoying myself, and that’s the main thing for me,’’ the 30-year-old said. ''That’s one of the things I had a chat to Wayne about after the game last week. He said as long as you enjoy yourself, you don’t need to do much more.
‘‘I’m not in a bad place. We could be winning a few more games. Let’s hope we get back on the winner’s board against the Broncos.’’
He pauses slightly. ‘‘I never thought I’d be saying that.’’
I’m willing to bet if Lawrence actually does play five-eighth, Tuqiri will hardly see any ball. What a waste.
Interesting point. That and coupled with the fact that the only time Fitzy sees the ball on the wing is running out of dummy half leads me to think why are we even naming wingers on our team sheet?
May as well just show up with 11 men and a 3-man bench :brick: