Halatau comes full circle for milestone
When it comes to the Wests Tigers veteran utility Dene Halatau has become a part of the furniture.
Ahead of his 150th game for the club up against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, on a weekend where the NRL celebrates Men of League Heritage Round, Halatau's career has certainly come full circle.
Debuting against the Sea Eagles back in 2003 as a fresh-faced 20-year-old, Halatau will join the club's top 10 most capped players alongside eight of his teammates from the Tigers' 2005 Premiership-winning team – a team where only he, Robbie Farah and Pat Richards remain at the club.
One of the mainstays in the club's history, and after captaining the Tigers for the first time this season, there's no better weekend than Heritage Round to showcase the now 32-year-old's value.
Admitting that while being a leader has "crept up" on him in recent seasons, Halatau isn't surprised by how much the Tigers have changed since his debut, considering the Mitchell Moses's, Luke Brooks's and James Tedesco's of the world aren't unlike he and many of his teammates back when they won the club's one and only premiership.
"The club has changed but I guess that's the nature of football. Squads turnover pretty regularly and change their personnel. All these guys coming through are no different to when I was coming through with Liam [Fulton], Bryce [Gibbs], Robbie [Farah] and Bronson Harrison. It's much the same in that regard but with different faces," Halatau said.
"Things evolve for you though when you're older and been around for a while and you're ticking off milestones, which is when you become one of those experienced guys. I'm enjoying it though, the young boys give me heaps of stick but it is good.
"I think I've had to learn [to become a leader] too, I looked up to guys like Ben Galea and Mark O'Neill when I first came into first grade – Mark is a guy I took a lot of football lessons and life lessons from – and I guess they were teaching me back then what I'm using now I suppose."
Keen to extend his playing days beyond this season, the off-contract Halatau said that while casual conversations haven't "materialised" to anything substantial he would love to remain at the club.
However if it weren't to happen, Halatau said many of his younger teammates have already crossed leadership barriers he wouldn't have dreamed of at their age, as he referred back to the first several years of his career where he never spoke up at team meetings.
"Aaron Woods is only 24 and he's become a regular fixture in the Origin team and he's played over 100 games for the Tigers now so Woodsy has become a senior player at a very young age," Halatau said.
"Chrissy Lawrence, who is still relatively young, has been a senior player for a long time and then there's Marty Taupau – who came over with myself from the Bulldogs – who has really established himself the past 18 months and a guy who many of the young guys feel they can go to and ask for advice or follow his lead."