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Talau hungry for more NRL chances after 'unreal' debut

Tommy Talau envisioned scoring a try on NRL debut. A victory would surely have been in the plan too.

But while his initial first grade appearance veered away from the script he'd mentally written, the 19-year-old Wests Tigers centre was elated after realising a lifelong dream in Thursday's 32-12 loss to Manly at Lottoland.

"Growing up, all I wanted to do was play NRL and it was just an unreal experience," Talau told

"I was hoping to get a try. It was unreal, just playing against people that you grow up watching. It was unbelievable.

"The boys really set an example, like Benji [Marshall] and that. They were talking to me and trying to make this game for me. It's obviously for our season [as well]. But it just wasn't meant to be."

The speedy outside back wasn't provided much opportunity to display his attacking prowess with the Tigers restricted to just 36 per cent of possession.

Talau gave fans a glimpse of the future when he made a line break from a kick-off in the first half, running for 88 metres in his eight carries overall, and completing 19 tackles with five misses against the Sea Eagles' red-hot right side.

Match Highlights: Sea Eagles v Wests Tigers

The solid maiden effort earned Talau a ringing endorsement from coach Michael Maguire.

"He was good. There were some big lessons for him there," Maguire said.

"A tough game to come into when you don’t have the ball and he had [Daly] Cherry-Evans coming down his edge quite often.

"To see a young man like that come out and perform in a tough game, I'm looking forward to seeing where he takes his career. If he keeps working the way he has been, there's no reasons why he can’t have a really long time in first grade."

Talau was chuffed when told about Maguire's praise.

"It's great to have a coach that has faith in you. He said that I belong here and I need to think like that," he said.

"It's just great having the boys around me and especially my coach."

The former Canterbury-Bankstown junior's family were there for a special jersey presentation leading into the match.

Talau's mother and father – admired ex-Bulldogs centre Willie Talau – handed over the coveted jumper to their son.

"All my family came out and I started to get emotional. [Willie] was really proud - I don't really see my dad emotional. It was good," Talau said.

Given he's still eligible for Jersey Flegg and has played only nine Canterbury Cup reserve grade matches, Talau noticed a few key differences in the NRL's intensity.

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"It was much faster. I copped a [big] hit from Moses Suli in the second half," he smiled.

"It was definitely faster and they just hit harder. I think after a couple weeks I'll get used to it."

And the highly-rated talent looks set to remain in the NRL for at least another round as captain Moses Mbye struggles to overcome a hip flexor strain.

Maguire said Mbye would be "touch and go" to return for next Saturday's clash against Newcastle, with a loss to certainly end the Tigers' season.

The sudden-death situation is a lot of pressure for a youngster to walk into but Talau feels confident about the team's chances of winning the final three fixtures and ending a seven-year finals drought.

"You never know with our boys," he said.

"We've got some good wins throughout the year. If we have enough belief, you never know what could happen."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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