Warriors great to make comeback at 35
Former Kiwi international and Warriors great Sione Faumuina is readying himself for a return to top level rugby league, beginning pre-season training with the Easts Tigers with an eye on playing in the Intrust Super Cup in 2017.
With youngsters at the club asking at Monday's first session whether he had played footy before after he revealed that he didn't play in Queensland's premier competition in 2016, Faumuina is attempting to slip back into the rugby league realm very much under the radar.
It's been eight years since Faumuina last played in the NRL with the North Queensland Cowboys but after a short stint with Castleford in 2009 moved to Australia and played local football at Tannum Sands, Tieri and Goodna.
But having coached the Tigers' under-16s in the Cyril Connell Cup this year the now 35-year-old who says he still enjoys "smashing blokes" is determined to strip the weight and make an impact on the competition.
With a book out now titled The Second Phase, Faumuina admits that alcohol abuse throughout his career prevented him from fulfilling his almost limitless potential and is determined to give the game one last crack.
"I think it's highly likely. If I can get fit I'll definitely be pushing for a spot," Faumuina told NRL.com.
"I'm going to do the pre-season and we'll assess at the end of this block.
"This year I went and watched the BRL Easts Tigers team and no disrespect to the BRL but I was watching and thinking, 'I could at least play that level'.
"I spoke to [Tigers coach] Scott Sipple and my whole thing was to try and make the BRL side and he said, 'Stuff that, come and do pre-season and we'll try and get you in Cup. Really love to use you in 20 or 30-minute stints a game.'"
A rampaging back-rower during his 88 games for the Warriors between 2002 and 2006, Faumuina started his NRL career with the Raiders in 2001 and had a two-year stint with the Cowboys in 2007 and 2008.
He also had single seasons with Super League clubs Hull FC and Castleford and in two Tests for New Zealand kicked four goals.
Faumuina coached Easts' under-16s Cyril Connell Cup team this season and is determined to reintroduce the role of the ball-playing back-rower to elite level rugby league.
"It's really different. Watching it now, it's definitely a lot different to when I last played," Faumuina said.
"I don't think there's such a thing as a ball-playing back-rower any more. Run lines all day.
"That cracks me up and I'm going to talk to the Easts coach about that because the reason why ball-playing back-rowers were so effective is because when you play one-out from the seven, there's more space. Whereas everything is run off the seven now and it's a bit tighter."
And in an even greater boost to a Tigers club with 100 years of history but currently enduring a premiership drought of more than 20 years, Faumuina is desperate to finish his playing career with a long-awaited trophy.
The former Test representative captained Goodna against Brothers in the Ipswich Rugby League Second Division Grand Final this year only to go down 22-20, providing even greater incentive to go out with a bang in 2017.
"Me training with Easts Tigers now, I didn't want to not have one more crack," Faumuina said.
"Yeah it's not NRL but it's the second tier comp. And I haven't won anything in rugby league.
"Never. Nothing. I played for Goodna this year and we lost in the grand final.
"I was made captain and I had this big speech that I gave the boys, I got a bit teary, telling them that I had never won anything.
"Everyone is going around saying they'd won six grand finals, others had won three and it came to me last and I hadn't won anything!"
Faumuina's book The Second Phase is available now through www.thesecondphase.co.nz and at major bookstores throughout Queensland and New South Wales.