Politoni to mark NRL return with Titans deal
He has played one NRL game in two and a half years but former Sharks hooker Pat Politoni will mark his return to the NRL arena at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines with a contract with the Gold Coast Titans.
Politoni will run out in Titans colours for the first time in the opening game of the tournament against his former club and is deep in discussions with Titans management about turning his 'train and trial' deal into a permanent place on the roster.
Although a deal has yet to be finalised, the 25-year-old has been impressing coach Neil Henry throughout pre-season training after playing an integral role in Burleigh's Intrust Super Cup premiership win last year.
Politoni made his first-grade debut with the Wests Tigers against the Warriors back in 2012 and 11 NRL game later said he was determined to make the most of his opportunity with the Titans.
"Early on especially when I was at the Tigers [I took it for granted]," Politoni said.
"I thought I had a really good opportunity there but I was just comfortable and happy to be there.
"I didn't actually feel like I was as deserving but as all the opportunities start slipping away and you see how much talent you actually have you start to think about that and really put your head down to make something out of it.
"I've spoken to [Neil Henry]. I don't have a manager so I've had to speak to him myself and all of it has been pretty positive.
"I know where I'm at and that's the good thing, at least I know where I'm at and he's been honest."
Nathan Peats has the stranglehold on the Titans' No.9 jersey and has expressed a desire to play 80 minutes each week in 2017, which would inhibit Politoni's chances.
But with no recognised hooker elsewhere in the roster Politoni represents a rugged and clever dummy-half in case of emergency.
"'Peatsy' is obviously the top guy and he's going to want to play 80 minutes and he's a real quality player," Politoni said.
"Then we've got a halves situation so we're not sure what's going to happen there and who is going to play on the bench.
"I'm just happy and really grateful to God for this opportunity and I'm going to take the opportunity with both hands."
He's also thankful that he and Paterika Vaivai won't have to go back to their jobs in landscaping for the forseeable future.
"It was pretty tough work," he admits. "I'd say it's harder than training full-time but I think that kind of helped me mentally to working hard and trying to get back to the NRL.
"It is hard [being on a train and trial contract]. The money's not as much as it used to be but that's what comes with the territory and comes with opportunities.
"I had the opportunity and I want to take it. That's worth more than money at the moment."