Tupou: I'm not here to make up numbers
After playing his first competitive game in more than six months last weekend, veteran Newcastle Knights recruit Anthony Tupou has made clear his intentions for 2017.
At 34 years of age the former Test and NSW State of Origin back-rower is one of the oldest players on the NRL Telstra Premiership scene, but Tupou said that will be no barrier to him pushing for a regular spot in the Knights' 17 this season.
"I am not coming just to run around, I have got a goal and I feel like I can still mix it there in the NRL," Tupou told NRL.com after making his debut for Newcastle's reserve-grade side in Auckland last Sunday.
"I think I have something to give the team and the young Knights boys, so I will be doing all I can to get into the team.
"I spoke to 'Browny' (coach Nathan Brown) even before I signed and he thought maybe I could come off the bench and play an impact role, which is what I did at the start of my career and what he thinks suits me best.
"I agree with that and I wouldn't be playing big minutes anyway… I played 60 minutes in my first run out in reserve grade (a 52-24 loss to the Warriors), so I am not sure what my role will be, but I will take it on whenever.
"I reckon I am close to being ready [for an NRL return]."
Tupou spent the 2016 season in the Super League with Wakefield, following a 12-year NRL career which included long stints with the Roosters and Sharks.
After leaving England in December last year, citing homesickness, Newcastle-born Tupou said it was a dream come true to link with the Knights on a one-year deal.
"To be back and playing in the red and blue, where I am from in Newcastle, is amazing," he said.
"It's a pleasure, I went over to England and I enjoyed that, it's a different type of footy and I always wanted to experience what it was like.
"But I felt like that was enough, so to be able to come back here and possibly play NRL against the best players in the world is a dream for me at this age and this stage of my career.
"To be doing that representing Newcastle is even better."
Meanwhile coach Brown indicated Tupou's introduction into the Newcastle first-grade side was imminent, following the club's 26-22 loss to the Warriors in Round 1.
"Whether he is ready next week, or in two or three weeks, we just have to play it by ear because he arrived late [to pre-season training].
"Certainly he is going to feature throughout the year, there is no doubt about that."