Tuqiri to help Rabbitohs take that last step
By mid-January, Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire had made a grand total of five signings to add to the team that fell one game short of the grand final last year.
One is three months removed from Canberra, which is probably the longest he's been away from home; the second is a former Storm lower grader; the third rates horse trainer Bart Cummings as his favourite author; the fourth owns an Allan Langer medal as a former Ipswich Jets player of the year; and the fifth is about six months removed from a groin injury – and four months removed from starring in a Wiggles DVD.
If anything, the recruitment of Joe Picker, Kirisome Auva'a, Chris Grevsmuhl, Nathaniel Neale and Joel Reddy all makes for an enterprising lot of development projects for the man who has risen up the coaching ladder quicker than Greg Inglis's best 100m time.
But Maguire cast an eye over his Herculean squad and decided he needed one more: a reliable performer, someone who'd be ready at the tip of a hat.
And so last month, the Rabbitohs announced the signing of a bloke on the wrong side of 30, who owns a wonky wrist, co-starred in that Wiggles video with Reddy, and spent the end of 2014 playing rugby union in the Irish town of Leinster.
But in acquiring the services of Lote Tuqiri, Maguire picked up a player who can help him take South Sydney into the grand final that all of Redfern has been waiting almost half a century for.
"The Rabbitohs are certainly genuine contenders if you're going off the last couple of years," Tuqiri says. "But I don't want to put that pressure on the boys. That was the main reason of coming to this club."
They say you can't teach speed. But last time we checked, experience wasn't something you could look up in the education manual either, and at 34 years of age, Tuqiri has that trait in bucketloads.
Teammate Joel Reddy sums it up best: "That's what he brings. He's been around and he's played in some big games," Reddy says.
"At Souths too, it's a pretty young backline. There's a few good up and coming backs, so I think myself and Lote are good around the club because we can help around in that (experience) aspect as well."
All it took was for the former Wests Tiger and Bronco to make sure the mind was willing because, for the most part, the body was.
"I just wanted to test myself again. I wanted to go out on my terms. Who's to say if it's my last year?" says Tuqiri, who played about 35 minutes in South Sydney's trial win over the Bulldogs last Sunday.
"But I wanted to be in a good team, a team that's going to be there at the end of the year and they've been so, so close over the last two years. I'm here to help in any way I can and just back up the squad here."
If all goes well, he might play a bigger part than that.