Vave beats the bulge for NRL redemption
You may not have heard much of Siosaia Vave in quite a while.
Truth be told the Sea Eagles prop has fought a personal battle of his own ever since joining the club at the beginning of last season.
Suffering a torn pectoral muscle late on in 2014 while at the Sharks Vave headed to the northern beaches with a fight for recovery on his hands, one not helped by the fact he ballooned to 134 kilograms.
Behind the eight ball from the beginning of his Sea Eagles career, Vave spent the entire season in NSW Cup fighting his way back to fitness where he's since lost a whopping 16 kilograms.
As big a wake-up call as a professional rugby league player can receive, Vave has since taken the "learning curve" in his stride and is hopeful to add to his 55-game NRL career in 2016.
"It was a tough time for me. I spent the entire year catching up so I could return to a first grade standard of fitness," the off-contract Vave told NRL.com.
"I had a good support base with my family and stuff like that because it was hard at the start.
"You can take positives out of last season though; I picked a lot of brains last season like Willie Mason and Josh Starling about being a better front-rower.
"I played a lot of minutes [in NSW Cup] and I think I was able to become smarter on the field for it."
Having seen the Sea Eagles undergo major changes under Trent Barrett, Vave was confident he and his new coach have an understanding of where the 26-year-old is to improve in the season ahead.
Coincidentally enough Barrett was the captain of the Sharks when Vave first made his NRL debut back in Round 3, 2010 – their long standing relationship holding the Tonga international in good stead.
"Trent has an easy plan in store for me, he's just told me to run hard and play tough," he said.
"I'm hoping to play some first grade and get a new contract at the Sea Eagles because I see the club going places so hopefully I'll have a really, really big year.
"It's a battle to try and earn a start because the calibre of players here is crazy. It's great to have everyone around here in terms of testing yourself every week though.
"If you can keep up with blokes like Nate [Myles] and Marty [Taupau] then you can keep up with anyone. It's a great opportunity."
Another player looking to force his way into the Sea Eagles' 17 this year is young forward Liam Knight.
Awarded NYC Player of the Year honours at the club in 2015, the Central Coast junior's first ever NRL pre-season was interrupted when he broke his foot stepping into a pothole while crossing a road in November but is now primed for a huge year.
Off-contract at season's end, and with clubs circling for his signature, Knight has been buoyed by the Sea Eagles' faith in him to perform.
"Definitely a few learning curves have come my way this season: how your body reacts under pressure when you're under immense fatigue, but it's always been good fun with the blokes in the side," Knight told NRL.com.
"Every aspect of training is a real strain on your body but it's probably the best I've felt ever really. There's obviously a lot of good forwards at the club, if my debut comes in Round 1 it does but if it doesn't I'll keep plugging away.
"Learning off the big dogs like Nate and the power of blokes like Marty is amazing – you don't try to beat Marty [in the gym] because basically it's like trying to push a truck up a hill but it's always good to see him throw the weights around.
"Jakey [Trbojevic] has been killing it too. He's an awesome player and a better bloke."