WAKEFIELD TRINITY WILDCATS’ Mr T is ready to stop talking and start acting.
Prop Taulima Tautai is hoping for a run-out in this weekend’s trial game at Hunslet Hawks as he bids to put a nightmare spell of injuries behind him.
The 25-year-old giant joined Wildcats from Parramatta Eels mid-way through last season and was still getting over jetlag when he turned in a man-of-the-match performance in the Magic Weekend defeat by Castleford Tigers.
Ironically, he had been on the point of signing for Tigers until that move fell through following the dismissal of coach Ian Millward.
Big – weighing in at more than 17 stone – and quick, boasting a clever offload, Tautai quickly established himself as a fans’ favourite, but injuries – including a broken and dislocated thumb suffered during his home debut – restricted him to just three starts and another four games off the bench last term. That left the former NRL ace frustrated, but determined to make an impact this year: “I broke my hand against Huddersfield in the last game of the season.
“I have done a lot of re-hab and it’s feeling a lot better now, but I did my knee against Featherstone (on January 12) and I would have missed Sunday’s game against Huddersfield (which was called off due to a waterlogged pitch). I am hoping to be back this week and that’s the end of the injuries. I didn’t used to get injured, but I think it’s just one of those things. It comes with playing rugby league.”
Having given fans a glimpse of what he is capable of, Tautai is keen to build on that sort of form when the Super League season starts next month.
“I want to carry on from where I left off and play some good footy,” he said. “We have got a pretty young squad and I want to help them come through.
“I see myself as a senior player, especially in a young forward pack.”
With more than 70 NRL games under his belt, the Australian-born, Samoa-qualified forward could be a key man in what is expected to be a battle against the drop this term.
“We have had a pretty good off-season,” he said. “Some good young players – like Chris Annakin and Kyle Trout – have come through and they have carried on from where they left off.
“We have lost a couple of players, but I think we have got a good squad. We started off good against Leeds, we had a pretty young side out and we played pretty well against them.
“It was disappointing against Featherstone and we have lost some names since last season, but I am just keeping my head down and working hard.”
Wildcats coach Richard Agar had been hopeful overseas recruits Pita Godinet, Scott Anderson and Matt Ryan would arrive in time for Sunday’s trip to South Leeds Stadium, but all three are still in Australia awaiting visa clearance.
Tautai admitted their absence has had “a bit” of a disruptive impact, but he stressed: “We have got other players to come up and take their position and they have filled in quite well. We have probably had to work on combinations a bit more, but other than that it hasn’t been too bad.”
First up for Wildcats when the real business begins are Salford Red Devils on Sunday, February 16.
“That’s a hard start,” Tautai said. “But we are pretty confident. We are working hard and that’s all we can do really. We are pretty lucky that we play them first, because they might not have got their combinations right.”