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Wests Tigers forward Dene Halatau has seen first-hand the importance of players learning skills outside footy.

The record books will say Dene Halatau played seven games in his comeback season at Concord. 

"But I got knocked out in the first minute of my first game back so I don't count that as a game. It wasn't a good year for me," he told this week. 

So that's just six games in a year where the prodigal son from their 2005 premiership side was supposed to leave a lasting impact on the club's prodigious school of kids. 

"Obviously coming back to the Tigers, one of the reasons I spoke to the club about coming back was being an older head, being a leader, and obviously being familiar with the club as well, that helped," he said. 

In the end he was barely on the field, playing spot minutes off the bench in a campaign decimated by injuries, limiting his influence to a veteran presence in the locker room. 

But after the departures of a host of experienced campaigners over the summer, Halatau is keen to make up for lost time. Even if, in rugby league terms, he doesn't have much time left.

"I think I'm the second oldest behind Patty [Richards]," he said. 

"Last year Braith had me and he's gone. I'm a bit older than Liam [Fulton], and he's retired too. So I was still one of the older guys last year. But there were a couple of guys ahead of me and now there's just one.

"Personally, I didn't play much last year so I'm keen to start and be in the side Round 1 and try and make it a big year for myself. Obviously the way the season ended up last year, we want to be a bit more positive about it all this year."

At 32 years of age, Halatau is entering his 13th season in first grade. And perhaps more than ever in his career, his coach will rely on his experience for a team severely lacking in that area. 

After him, 21-year-old Curtis Sironen has the most games amongst second-rowers in the club. 

"Leadership is something that, for myself, has evolved over the past four to five seasons. When I was back at the Dogs, I started feeling more as a senior guy and a leader there," he said. 

That, and the fact that the former New Zealand international can play almost anywhere on the field. The 2005 premiership-winner has been named by coach Jason Taylor to start at lock this week in what will be his 205th first grade game.

"I've been a utility most of my career and as much as I'd like to settle in one spot and play there consistently, I think the way that he's going to use me is to be covering a few different positions," he said. 

"Maybe giving Robbie [Farah] a rest if he needs it, or covering the back row for those other boys, or at lock, and anywhere else. The way the game is at the moment, players get injured and you're left short in a position. I'm lucky that I can cover most of them, and I think that's where I'll be."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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