Young Storm flyer eager to spread his wings
His dream rookie campaign was brought undone by some harsh mid-year critisicm, but promising Storm talent Young Tonumaipea is eager to show he has learnt his lessons.
A first grade debut, followed two months later by an international call-up and a new two-year contract meant Tonumaipea's career started with a bang.
The Samoan-born winger played the first 14 games for the Storm last season, scoring three tries and averaging just over 116 metres per game.
But the mid-season signing of Marika Koroibete from Wests Tigers put a halt to the dream start as Tonumaipea was pushed out of the 17 in Round 16 and he never saw first grade again during the season.
Having enjoyed a few months of sweet success the 22-year-old admits his late-season omission left a sting but it quickly proved to be the first in what is sure be a long line of lessons.
“I was pretty happy I debuted last year but there is still a lot of things I’ve got to work on,” Tonumaipea said.
“It is more defensive decisions because I just came in and I’m not as experienced but that is what I tried work on, working well with my centre.
“It was good for me though, sort of like a learning curve so now all I can do is just learn from it and try and build on it.”
Storm and Maroons centre Will Chambers is one he seeks the council of on a regular basis as well as masterful fullback Billy Slater.
As the new season approaches so too does a golden opportunity for the young winger. A spot on the wing beckons after Sisa Waqa’s departure to the Canberra Raiders in the summer.
Waqa was the Storm’s leading try scorer last season with 18 tries from 24 games.
It is a vital vacancy coach Craig Bellamy will need to fill and no one is more aware of that than Tonumaipea.
“That’s what Bellyache said, it is an opportunity for most of us backs to grab the opportunity with both hands. That is why we’ve all tried to work really hard in the off-season to do that,” he said.
“It is a huge opportunity for all the boys who are in contention for the position. It is healthy for the club and good competition for all of us to fight for that spot.
“Hopefully I’ll be in the mix for round one.”
Tonumaipea has one more week to state his claim for the jersey before Melbourne opens their season against St George Illawarra at Jubilee Oval on March 9.