The great comeback

THE tap on the wrist band and index finger pointing to the heavens after scoring that try on Friday night, said it all.

Lote Tuqiri has found his niche.

The Fijian dual rugby international, who could easily be regarded as the country’s most successful rugby player ever, has finally found his direction.

Following a colourful career in both codes Tuqiri’s off the field behaviour has seen him in a number of controversial circumstances, the most severe penalty was being axed by the Australian Rugby Union for breaching rules of his $6million contract.

He returned to rugby league and then switched back to union playing for Irish club Leinster but allegedly had an affair with a TV reality star. He came back to rugby league and was “playing park rugby”. His Bear’s club was getting thrashed by fifty and sixty points and he was in the “scrap heap”.

There were a couple more minor incidents like comments on referees which were always blown out of proportion by the media because of his superstar status and the big money he was making.

In reality he is a soft-spoken man who enjoys having fun with friends.

But fourteen years after winning a grand final for Brisbane Broncos a rejuvenated Tuqiri is poised to achieve another milestone in his impressive sporting career.

The 35-year-old has been receiving rave reviews from the media following his try and sterling performance to help the South Sydney Rabbitohs beat defending champions, the Sydney Roosters 32-24 last Friday night.

Now the Rabbitohs are in the grand final after 43 years.

Tuqiri’s try was a classic that only a wing with tons of experience running along the sideline could have achieved.

After receiving the final pass in the sixth ball, Tuqiri made a powerful burst for the corner flag with the cover defence quickly closing in.

The try was scored at pin-point accuracy with a superb co-ordination of body and ball movement.

His right boot just brushing millimetres past the grass with the whitewash marking the line-out as his right hand pushed the ball forward for the touchdown, before he was tipped over the corner flag and out of play.

The referee had to seek the assistance of the video referee before giving the try.

Being down 12-0 in the first couple of minutes, the Rabbitohs were so inspired that they went on to score 32 unanswered points.

The Daily Telegraph headline read: Lote Tuqiri kept the faith to earn shot at fairytale finish with Rabbitohs;

Writer James Phelp wrote: Tuqiri has risen from the rugby league scrapheap to earn a remarkable shot at a fairytale finish with the dual international South Sydney winger just one win away from retiring with a premiership.

The Courier Mail said: “Darren Lockyer urges Lote Tuqiri to retire after this season if South Sydney Rabbitohs win title.”

Rupert Guiness a rugby league writer in New Zealand wrote: “Old-time wing Lote Tuqiri living for the moment.”

The Namatakula man has played nine Tests for the Kangaroos and three for Fiji, spent the past four years with Wests Tigers, managing just 52 games because of complications from a broken arm he sustained midway through the 2012 season.

Tuqiri previously played 99 games for the Broncos before switching to union where he spent seven seasons with the NSW Waratahs and earned 67 caps for the Wallabies.

He still holds the record for most points in an Origin match for Queensland (18) and tries in a series (five in 2002).

The Sydney dallies reported that coming from park football to steal a spot on the South Sydney wing at the age of 35, Tuqiri has opened up on his come-from-no-where journey that could see him join the rare few that are given the ultimate parting gift.

Tuqiri’s unlikely path to the premiership decider began with a random text message that convinced him to give the NRL one final shot continued with 50-point floggings in the NSW Cup, thoughts of quitting, and lonely runs in a bid to get fit.

And now it may end with a fairytale.

“It was the last week of December and I got a text from Michael Maguire,” Tuqiri said.

“We had spoken when I was at the Tigers but we hadn’t talk since then. I was back in Sydney and I didn’t know what I was doing. But I got that text and I had a look at the squad, at the team, and that is what got me over the line. This club has been building and I could see it. I knew deep inside that I could still offer them a lot so I took the chance.”

The Rabbitohs lost a host of backs last year with coach Michael Maguire saying Tuqiri would bring some much-needed experience the reports said.

“Lote has played the game at the highest level for many years and the experience he will bring to our young backline will be invaluable,” Maguire said.

Tuqiri’s new found direction in life has even seen him giving advice to fellow league players falling by the wayside.

Todd Carnery was recently sacked from the Sharks after a lewd photograph went viral last weekend, something Tuqiri said he was struggling to understand.

Tuqiri reportedly said that Carney just had to get back into the right headspace and for him to have some direction to know where he was going.

“He’ll be back though, he’s a great footy player and a good bloke too.

“I know that’s probably tough for him to figure out right now but hopefully he has some good people around him and once he has that direction to know where he is going that will help.

“He’s probably too trusting with people around him,” Tuqiri said.

So having this new found form, would he retire after next week’s grand final?

Only time will tell.

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