Injured Taufua drawing inspiration from Matai
Injured Manly winger Jorge Taufua says he is playing through the pain every week and drawing inspiration from one of the northern beaches' toughest proponents of playing injured in Steve Matai.
The hard-as-nails Kiwi international made a career out of playing – and playing well – despite a seemingly endless series of neck and shoulder injuries. He also spent most of last season playing through a serious thumb injury.
It had to take its toll eventually and Matai was recently ruled out for the rest of 2016 due to neck surgery but Taufua – who spent six weeks on the sideline earlier this year after fracturing a collarbone – is looking to take a leaf out of Matai's book.
Surgery to insert a plate onto the fracture has led to an infection that needs constant redressing and at times means he can hardly lift his right arm but it hasn't stopped him starring with six tries in six games since returning in Round 14.
"I'm kind of playing busted as every player does and my injuries have been playing on my mind," Taufua said.
"Maybe the fact we just need to win everything and it's all on the line [helps drive me]."
The injury needs to be cleaned and re-bandaged every day and Taufua revealed he was almost forced to sit out the Round 17 fixture against St George Illawarra due to the pain and stiffness meaning he could barely lift his arm. He ended up playing and scoring two tries in the 36-6 victory.
"It's just a day by day thing, I've just got to keep the doctor and physio updated. Trent (coach Trent Barrett) is always asking how I am which is good. It's going all right, I just don't want to miss the rest of the season and what we've got going at the moment," he added.
"All the staff always ask me how I am and if I should get it done but I keep just pushing it off because I want to be a part of this team and I want to keep winning and I just want to do my best for the team and see how we go in the next few weeks.
"This year and the two years before I've missed a fair few games through injury so I want to keep ticking the games over and keep getting the wins."
There is no question the legendary toughness of Matai – who has played centre inside Taufua on Manly's left edge for the majority of the winger's career – continues to provide the Tongan international with inspiration.
"Stevie's one of our warriors and I miss him very much. Especially being inside me [at centre]," Taufua said.
"He's taught me to be that tough and put the team first. I know we all miss his presence around but he's inspired me very much. Not just the fact he plays with injury but just the way he carries himself and the kind of leadership he brings to this team and we miss very much.
"He's got this surgery, he's been playing with that bad neck for how many years now. I can't imagine [seeing what he could do] with a good neck. I'm excited for his return and I miss him very much."
Despite his high praise of Matai, Taufua also had plenty of support for current centre partner Brayden Wiliame, who has now enjoyed two straight wins for the first time in a luckless NRL career that kicked off with 13 consecutive losses for Parramatta and Manly, predominantly in the unfamiliar position of wing.
"I think [Wiliame’s] best position is in the centres and unlucky not to have Steve Matai there but with Brayden filling in he does a great job," Taufua added.
"He's got two [wins] in a row and he got his first against Newcastle earlier in the year. I purposely went up to watch that game – I wasn't playing but I kind of had a feeling he'd get his first one then. I know it played on his mind that duck, that figure, so I'm stoked for him."
Asked if Wiliame was now up to speed with the team song, Taufua laughed: "Nah, I think he just knows the clapping bit and just the end bit! I think he's still learning but hopefully we can get a few more for him and for our fans and ourselves."