Moeroa welcomes Takairangi competition at Eels
Parramatta centre Brad Takairangi's migration to the back row places him in direct competition for a spot with close mate Tepai Moeroa – but if there's any professional tension between the pair they certainly aren't showing it.
Speaking to NRL.com at a pre-season media session, Takairangi insisted his move to the pack was in the works long before the club recruited new right centre and former Dally M fullback Jarryd Hayne. Rather, it was sparked by an agreement between player and coach that he needed to get more involved.
"It's been a big change but it's been awesome," Takairangi said.
"It's a new position so I'm learning all over again. I'm lucky enough to have Manu [Ma'u], Kenny [Edwards] and Tepai who've been playing there and are really good players so they're good blokes to learn off.
"[Coach] Brad [Arthur] has taught me a heap already, he's been riding me hard so it's been tough but it's been good and I've enjoyed it. I learned a lot at centre off him and now I'm learning all over again in the back row.
"The main reason [for the move] was so hopefully I can get in and have more influence on a game and do a bit more with the ball. Everyone knows what I can do with the ball, it's been about learning those repeat efforts because the work load is a lot higher but I've been loving it."
Takairangi jokes that now he's one of the ones doing the hard work in the pack he can give the glamour boys in the backs "a bit of stick" about their lack of defensive workload.
But having played plenty of five-eighth along with centre (and having booted a quality 40/20 in the trial win against Newcastle) Takairangi is very much targeting a ball-playing back-row role.
"That's a big reason why I've gone in there. I can offer more than sitting out getting a cold in the centres," he said.
With Ma'u locked in for a left edge role and likely to pump out 80 minutes, Takairangi confirmed he has been training almost exclusively on the right alongside Hayne at centre and Mitch Moses at half. It places him in direct competition with Moeroa. Asked about the duel – with Moeroa standing nearby – Takairangi spies an opportunity.
"Tepai – he's pretty useless to be honest!" Takairangi declared, drawing an eye-roll from Moeroa and prompting an outburst of laughter from both.
"All four of us have been rotating. Me, Kenny, Munz and Tepai have all been sharing the duties. Whichever way Brad goes we're happy with it," he added more diplomatically.
"Of any team I've been in this is easily the most competition I've seen. Especially here at Parra, we always had that depth but now our Wenty team is going to be stacked with NRL players. It's definitely healthy to have that, it's making everyone train hard and we're pushing each other as well."
When later asked for his own views on the right edge battle, Moeroa takes the high road.
"It's good, the more competition the better it makes us," he said.
"As you can tell no-one is cemented yet, everyone has to work hard. It's all right... ah I was gonna spray him (Takairangi) but I won't. But he's good, he brings that unpredictability to the edge because he can run, pass, kick. He adds that little X-factor to the edge so it's a good move."
Moeroa said the best way he can stake his own claim to remain on the starting pack is to follow through on his coach's instructions to lift his aggression.
"[Arthur] just wants me to work on being aggressive, that will be the big push for the year, working on my aggression and holding it for the whole year and being consistent," he said.