South Sydney recruit Lote Tuqiri has rejected suggestions he was thrown a lifeline, insisting he had plenty of options on the table when he signed with Souths – adding the side’s recent success played a big part in the decision
“I don’t know about the wilderness – I was just at Wests Tigers!” the 34-year-old said at a club media session following the suggestion the club had kept his professional head above water.
“[I was] probably in the wilderness a bit injury-wise but I’m back now and have been injury-free since the end of last year. I’m happy to be here and hopefully on the verge of getting picked to play on Thursday night.”
Tuqiri played just four games for Wests Tigers in 2013 as ongoing complications from a broken arm suffered in 2012 delayed his comeback, and was eventually released late in the season to play a stint in Irish Rugby.
“It wasn’t a lifeline mate, we’d been talking for a while and it’s not like I didn’t have any other options, but I thought it was the best option for me, being here, being at a good club,” he said.
“Obviously I’m not getting any younger and probably don’t have that many years left in me but I think we’ve got a really good chance to do something this year.”
Tuqiri also revealed that the club’s recent success made it a more tempting option than when he had been in talks with the Rabbitohs several years ago.
“I could have been [back] here then but everything happens for a reason. They’re quite successful now, back in the day they probably weren’t so successful which made it a bit more of an option if I’m being honest,” he said.
Despite his confidence in his own form and fitness (Tuqiri was one of seven Rabbitohs try-scorers in the 38-20 Charity Shield win and also crossed the stripe at the Auckland Nines), Tuqiri said he still needed to play his way into the team.
With Beau Champion and Bryson Goodwin the likely starting centres, Nathan Merritt guaranteed a wing spot and former centre Dylan Walker seemingly destined to play in the halves in the absence of Luke Keary, Tuqiri appears to be in a head-to-head battle with fellow new recruit Joel Reddy for the remaining spot in the three-quarter line – although youngsters Kirisome Auva'a, Aaron Gray and Alex Johnston could come into contention either for Round 1 or later in the season.
“[I] probably [bring] another option in the backline, I think we’ve lost a few outside backs last year, I’m here to obviously bring experience and I talk a lot in the field,” he said.
“That’s something I hope can improve the team but I’ve got to get in the team first; I’ve been trying to do that at training and the games that I’ve played. I’ve had a bit of experience with the boys now at the Nines and against the Bulldogs first up and the Charity Shield last week. Hopefully I can get in the team and stay there.”
Tuqiri said he wasn’t sure if he still had all of his old pace, and confessed he’d had to start to think more about his playing style as he got older rather than relying on raw pace.
“I have had to think about that – you’ve got to try and get an edge somewhere, there’s things I’m trying to improve. Five years ago I didn’t have to think about that, using other things in my arsenal to try and get in teams and break down defences because yeah, I’m not getting any younger.”