The dent that made Moltzen
By Nick Walshaw From: The Daily Telegraph August 21, 2009 12:01AM
ASK Tim Moltzen if you can touch his dent. Go on. That depression at the back of his head beneath a short, surfie haircut.
"Because if you do, you’ll actually be able to feel the metal underneath his skin,’’ older brother Gus reveals. "Feel the corner of the metal plate, the spot where it’s indented … throw in some dandruff and it’s all quite disgusting really.’’
Yep, this is how you unlock the 2009 phenomenon that is Wests Tigers wonderboy Moltzen. You rub the back of his melon and uncover the secret steel casing that’s become something of a signature for this livewire utility. Like Benji Marshall and his sidestep. Or Taniela Tuiaki and those shiny, gold teeth.
You see, before the dent Moltzen was something of a cruisy type. A Central Coast teen whose spare hours were filled watching The Simpsons, hanging out by Terrigal beach and experimenting with new ways to dye his surfie blond locks.
He was the teenage footballer who’d never seen the inside of a gym. Who had always been third, maybe fourth best in his own side. A schoolboy giving so little effort at Terrigal High, the old man was threatening to drag him out of the classroom and into the workforce.
"Tim was fairly relaxed, yeah,’’ Paul Moltzen concedes of his son. "Certainly not one of those boys who would be out training six days of every seven. He’d also been overlooked for a lot of junior rep sides. Told he was too small, too soft. All of which had Tim believing he was no good. He was ready to give the game away.’’
And then came the dent. Arriving on what started like any other Saturday afternoon with the Terrigal Sharks back in 2005. The side again at the top of the table. Gunning for their eighth consecutive Grand Final appearance. A team, according to trainer Caine Dunn, "that had plenty of superstars ahead of Tim’’.
"But this day, I remember him taking a dropout and chasing hard,’’ the old man recalls. "The ball went about 45m, bounced once and somehow Tim was there to pick it up. But just as he went to take off upfield this kid from Kincumber ankle-tapped him …’’
And so the tiny Sharkies halfback stumbled forward. Unable to find his balance, his feet or see that defender closing, closing, clos … THWACK.
"Yeah, knees in the head,’’ says Parramatta legend Steve Ella, whose son Bryan was also playing for the Sharks. "The game was stopped, then called off. It wasn’t pretty.’’
Neither was what came next. Not when Moltzen was released from hospital within hours. Nor when he headed off to a touch tournament three days later. "No, it was when he came home,’’ Paul says. "I asked Tim about the carnival, if he’d had any headaches or dizziness. He said, `nah, but can you feel this?’ He had a dent in his head the size of a tennis ball.’’
And so Moltzen was rushed back to hospital. This time his diagnosis changing from dizziness to depressed skull facture. Emergency surgery, metal plate in the melon and plenty of tears as he came to grips with never playing sport again.
"And that incident, it’s been the turning point in his life,’’ Gus insists. "Before the accident he was fairly cruisy. Mum and dad were actually getting the s…s with how little he was committing at school. But when he thought footy was going to be taken from him, mate, everything changed. When he finally came back he was training harder. Putting in extra efforts. It was his wake-up call.’’
Of course, trying to ask Moltzen about the moment that changed his life isn’t easy. Especially when Wests Tigers have made one of the hottest young NRL talents unavailable to the media for all five days leading up to tonight’s blockbuster against Parramatta at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Like somehow we might all choose to ignore this kid who sits seventh for NRL line-breaks. Whose rise has coincided with six straight Wests Tigers victories. Who against Cronulla last Saturday scored a try, made four line-breaks, two try assists and ran 193m.
He’s the natural athlete who weighs just 85kg yet can drive a golf ball further than any other Tigers player. The reformed slacker who can now bust out 34 chin-ups on demand. The schoolboy who forfeited his Schoolies airfares and accommodation to prepare for the 2008 Toyota Cup season.
"And you could tell Tim was special the moment he appeared in our first commercial,’’ Cup convenor Michael Buettner says. "He looked down that camera lens and said something like `this year, make sure you keep an eye on me’. It wasn’t cocky or arrogant, but it oozed confidence.’’
It’s a belief now heightened following Moltzen’s decision to move in with Tigers superstars Marshall and Tuiaki. Bunking down in a joint so secretive, club officials have denied all requests for images of the trio. Refusing even to name the suburb where they live.
"But there’s no doubting the effect it’s had on Tim,’’ says one club staffer. "He’s no longer intimidated by Benji. Not afraid to call over the top of him. Last year he was sitting at the back of team meetings - now he’s up the front.’’
It’s also resulted in efforts Tigers coach Tim Sheens knew were possible, but not yet. Not after 29 NRL games. Only three winters since this playmaker, still only 19, was playing park footy and drinking at the Terrigal Country Club.
And as for his future? "Mate, the only person who’ll decide how far Tim Moltzen goes is the man himself,’’ says Ella, who won four premierships with the Eels. "Tim has to want it. Has to realise his ability and apply himself.’’
Has to feel that dent.