Reborn Tetevano keen to give back
Sydney Roosters forward Zane Tetevano walked into the judiciary room a fortnight ago and immediately saw his past flash before his eyes – a past that he reflects on with sadness but also looks back on with a sense of accomplishment.
Tetevano's actions in the last four years are well publicised. He was sacked by the Knights in 2014 on the back of behavioural problems and spent time in jail 12 months later on domestic violence and assault charges.
His lawyer declared in court the 26-year-old had no intentions of returning to the NRL and required medical help after a tough childhood upbringing.
After a stint behind bars, the Cook Islands representative made a return to park footy with Wyong, where former Knights lower grades coach Rip Taylor offered Tetevano the chance to return to the game via the Intrust Super Premiership – out of the limelight and with no pressure attached.
His form at the Roos was hard to ignore and Roosters coach Trent Robinson offered him a chance to return to the first grade scene after a clearance from the NRL, but the prop recalled how it almost never happened.
"I turned up for my first day at the club and didn't have enough petrol to drive home," Tetevano told NRL.com.
"I was that nervous of walking into those doors and questioning whether I wanted to, so called my partner and said I was coming home.
"She said 'no you're not' and took all the money out of my account so I couldn't fill up and drive back. It forced me to walk inside and I told the club straight away I was nervous.
"They said it was understandable."
Tetevano, who continues to live on the Central Coast, reflects on his past with many regrets and is first to admit he understands why people are turned off by his return to the game.
"I lost my way, all my family was back home so I was in a big fish bowl by myself and used to have mates to turn to. It's hard to explain, I had no one to tell me what to do or to pull my head in," he said.
"It was a massive wake up call.
"I was angry at myself and how it all turned out and was first to admit I stuffed up and needed to be a better man."
The prop credits a number of factors that helped following two seasons he says he took for granted at Newcastle – even going as far as saying there was no way his former club should've picked him with his poor attitude and lazy work rate.
He began employment as a builder in 60-hour weeks last season to help provide for his family including 10-month old son Zarius, and is keen to return to full-time work when the season ends for the Tricolours.
"Work life helped, it has had a massive impact on me. I used to do a lot of hours to put a roof over my family's head," Tetevano said.
"Having that work ethic doing 16 hours a day and sleeping at work put it in perspective of what everyone else does. I felt like I achieved something for once in my life working as hard as I did.
"I've found out things about me I never knew I had and not just known as a footballer."
Tetevano's return to the game was fairly low-key until a Round 26 tackle on Titans prop Ben Nakubuwai brought his name back into the spotlight and put his first finals experience in jeopardy.
"That judiciary process was nerve-racking, walking into a room like that again," Tetevano said, likening it to a courtroom.
"It brought back memories and I thought straight away I don't like this place.
"[The tackle] was a blur and I just had to walk away while everyone came in for a scuffle, I hoped he was okay."
The former Knight was suspended for a week and missed the Roosters' 24-22 win over the Broncos that booked their place in Saturday night's preliminary final against the Cowboys.
After managing 22 games this season for Trent Robinson's side, the prop is due back on the paddock and a finals berth would cap off the ultimate turnaround for the New Zealand-born forward.
"Coming back I had this vision of having the right attitude that I never used to have towards football," he said.
"This year has been about giving back – to the club, NRL and to the game.
"Each week is not about myself anymore."