Fun was name of the game for Te'o
Rugby-bound South Sydney back-rower Ben Te'o is about to play what is likely to be his last ever game in the NRL, and arguably the biggest – but win or lose he's happy to just be remembered as a good teammate.
Te'o is far less concerned about his personal legacy in terms of games and records than he is with just being remembered as someone who made footy fun.
Asked if he's had a chance to contemplate his exit from the game, Te'o, who missed the last three games of the regular season and the first week of the finals due to suspension, is more interested in how teammates and fans remember him than with stats and numbers.
"Of course I know it's my last game this week; I've been enjoying the last few weeks as if they were all my last too," Te'o, who is bound for Irish Rugby club Leinster next year, told NRL.com.
"I'm just going to keep enjoying it. There's a lot of things to go on this week that we're all excited about."
But when it comes to his personal legacy?
"I don't think much about stuff like that. All I want to be remembered for is a good teammate – I hope the guys say 'yeah he was good fun, he was good to have around' and maybe people say 'he played hard' – that's pretty much it.
"Those are the things that mean the most to me. I don't really look for games and achievements and stuff."
For the record, Te'o will finish with 151 NRL games for Wests Tigers, Brisbane and South Sydney, seven Origins for Queensland, and one appearance for Samoa in the 2008 World Cup that netted him two tries. He played five finals for the Broncos and is about to play his fourth finals match for the Rabbitohs in what will be his first NRL grand final appearance.
Back in his Brisbane days Te'o showed plenty of promise as a media talent before pulling the pin on the funny-guy stuff to focus on footy, but we got a glimpse of his inner prankster recently, when Te'o unexpectedly sat down for a post-Origin III press conference in front of a packed media scrum who were waiting for defeated coach Mal Meninga and captain Cameron Smith.
Te'o's off-the-cuff appearance, and frank answers to blunt questions, had the media pack in stitches.
Reminded of his impromptu presser, Te'o bursts out laughing.
"I love to enjoy my footy, that was a moment that was just a bit of fun," Te'o says.
"Footy's fun, man, you've got to enjoy it and I try to make things enjoyable around here. There's a fine line between being serious and 'am I joking around too much' but that's just the way I am.
"You can lose that, you can lose the fun it football [if you take things too seriously] and sometimes finding form is finding fun. You can't get things too mixed up and too full-on."
It's a simple philosophy and one that has worked well for the tough back-rower, who was close to the best player on the field in his side's preliminary final demolition of the defending premiers. Anyone who thinks his laid-back approach is a sign of someone who doesn't take their performances seriously only has to look at his try, six tackle breaks, 106 metres from 12 ferocious charges and 24 stinging tackles – coming off the bench in his return from suspension – to see a man who looks like he has found the right approach.
But for all his 'footy is fun' approach, Te'o is under no illusion that for some fans, rugby league isn't a hobby, it's a way of life, and he is also determined not to let them down.
"For a lot of fans this is their life – they go to work but they can't wait to come home and watch the footy. Some come to training, they go to the website, they get ready for the game, they want to talk about it before and after," he says.
"I understand that that's their thing but it's not my thing – this is my job, I like to come here and play footy and come here and have fun with my mates but I'm not absorbed by it.
"Look at these people here [the 5,000 plus fans at the Rabbitohs' open training session on Monday]. They love it, it means so much to them, they grew up with it, they're very protective of it. All I can do is come in here and contribute and enjoy myself and move on.
"This is a special club with its heritage, I think the community, being situated here in Redfern with all the indigenous people is pretty special. It's probably been something different to most of the places I've been, just to see what the club does for the community. This has been a little bit more special in that sense."
Te'o currently lives with another rugby-bound Rabbitohs forward in Sam Burgess.
"It's been good – we enjoy each other's company, he's probably learned some things from me, I've learned some things from him. Nothing I can really share, but it's been fun!" he laughs.
"They're [the Burgess brothers] a big part of this club and it's going to be good that three of them [George, Tom and Luke] are still there. Whether Sam comes back I'm not too sure but the fans love it."
The 27-year-old himself hasn't ruled out of a return to the NRL but says he won't be making himself any promises.
"I'd love to come back to rugby league at some stage but I don't know how things are going to pan out for me so I'm not going to promise myself that I'll come back here," he said, adding he also hasn't set any specific goals for his stint in Irish rugby.
"I just want to go and have fun – I don't think I'm going to play international or anything, I'm just going to a good club and I'm going to learn and travel and have fun, just enjoy it and see the world. I've been in the NRL for a long time and it's time to change it up. I want to see it all, do it all, that's what I'm looking forward to."