Sam Tagataese already has runs on the board in Brisbane

Robert Burgin Columnist

By Robert Burgin, Robert Burgin is a Roar Expert

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    It was one of the most dominant individual performances seen at Suncorp Stadium since it had reopened.

    The long-haired 20-year-old backrower crossed for four tries, three coming inside the first 24th minutes of the game.

    That afternoon in 2007 – and the 42,000-strong crowd – was supposed to belong to the Gold Coast Titans, who were playing their first fixture in the NRL.

    But those who arrived early were blown away by what they saw in the curtain-raiser; a tearaway kid destroying grown men in the state league, destined to make his own NRL debut just three weeks later.

    This was the Sam Tagataese that wider Brisbane first caught a glimpse of, yet he has never worn Broncos colours until now.

    Back then he was being groomed by the Norths Devils, a feeder club at the time to the Melbourne Storm.

    “He was electric… the most devastating fringe runner in his age group,” says Steve Lacey, one of Tagataese’s former mentors at the Devils.

    “If he broke an edge, nobody was going to catch him.

    “I remember Sam was always incredibly intense at training, and even though a lot of the team were on Storm contracts and very talented, we had quite a few plays which were set up specifically for him.

    “Here was a guy that was six-foot-three, who had a fantastic offload and sleight of hand, and was competing with the fastest guys in the team over 40 metres.”

    Even before that stunning display in 2007, Tagataese had a history of success at Suncorp Stadium stretching back several years.

    In 2004, at age 17, he scored two tries in an Under-19s grand final won 48-6 by Norths at the former Lang Park, the first of three successive premierships by the Devils in that age group.

    His teammates included Greg Inglis, Adam Blair, and in subsequent years, Israel Folau and Will Chambers.

    Now aged 31, Tagataese is going to present a different proposition for fans when he finally suits up for Brisbane.

    Gone is the out-and-out blistering pace. It’s highly doubtful he will even be a starter. However, he will still bring qualities that Lacey believes the Broncos can benefit from.

    “Injuries certainly haven’t helped him over the years and there is no way he could physically play the way he used to,” says Lacey, himself a former elite junior athlete besieged by chronic knee problems.

    “But I also think the game of rugby league has changed in the past decade and the expansive, fluent style he was initially moulded for by Melbourne is no longer en vogue.

    “His shape, size and age suit a different style now.

    “What is most important is that, in the 14 years I’ve known him, Sam has not changed as a person and that’s his greatest asset.

    “He’s a gentle giant, a wonderful human being, a great leader and very proud of his culture and family.”

    Sam Tagataese

    Sam Tagataese is Brisbane bound. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

    It’s those attributes that Lacey feels will most help Brisbane – on and off the park – not just his 168 games of first-grade experience and 110kg frame.

    He last saw the former Cronulla Sharks premiership winner in a chance meeting at the airport in late November. Tagataese was amid a tough World Cup campaign for Samoa, where he battled an infection and disappointing results, and he had not yet been signed by an NRL club for 2018.

    “Straight away he asked how my wife was, how my kids were,” reveals Lacey.

    “He was heading down to Sydney to talk to the NRL about a mentorship program and he spoke passionately about that as well.

    “Here’s a guy that knows what it’s like to go through good times and bad, he can converse with younger players, but also with older leaders. He is a fantastic role model who could be of real benefit to the community.

    “Sam’s very in touch with his Polynesian heritage and wants to keep that culture alive, and when you look at the demographics of Brisbane as a city and as a football team, he will be huge in that respect.”

    Tagataese was not named by the Broncos in a largely youthful squad to take on the Central Capras at Theodore in their first trial of the season.

    Robert Burgin
    Robert Burgin

    Robert Burgin is a sports writer of 20 years with a particular appetite for Rugby League's exotic and bizarre tales. Find him on Twitter @RobBurginWriter.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • February 13th 2018 @ 6:05am
      14-12 said | February 13th 2018 @ 6:05am | ! Report

      Too easy Tagataese! We loved him at Cronulla.

    • February 13th 2018 @ 6:32am
      jeff dustby said | February 13th 2018 @ 6:32am | ! Report

      gives a quality 24 minutes every week.

    • Roar Guru

      February 13th 2018 @ 6:59am
      The Barry said | February 13th 2018 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      I like Sam. A bit unsung, a bit unfashionable, but does everythimg at a million miles an hour.

    • Roar Rookie

      February 13th 2018 @ 7:50am
      Joe said | February 13th 2018 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      Very solid player and sounds like a great person as well. See less of it now but still has that big hit in defense. I think he’ll go great off the bench for the Broncos.

      • February 13th 2018 @ 8:47am
        Greg said | February 13th 2018 @ 8:47am | ! Report

        His effective tackle % of 94.8% was the third best in the NRL last year. His ball handling unfortunately lets him down, he’s got for at least one dropped ball every game.

    • Roar Guru

      February 13th 2018 @ 7:51am
      Dutski said | February 13th 2018 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      I’m a bit excited to see what Sam can achieve at the Broncos. I’m hoping for an Adam Blair type transformation, where he goes from average at best to a player who knows his role and does it with freedom.Flanigan is not known for giving his players free reign, particularly in the forwards . So will be interesting to see if Wayne allows Sam to play with a bit of flair.

    • Roar Rookie

      February 13th 2018 @ 8:34am
      William Dalton Davis said | February 13th 2018 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      I’m happy with this pick up. Came seemingly out of nowhere but definitely the type of body Brisbane needed coming off the bench.

      That Brisbane bench is starting to look very congested. Especially if Bennett keeps the utility spot. Dargan should get it for his kicking imo but we’ll see.

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