Tolu Koula may have already been touted as one of the fastest players in rugby league, but the hype is certainly not fazing the exciting young Manly flyer.
To say the 19-year-old can run is an understatement. An official track time of 10.58 seconds to break the 100m record at the AAGPS Athletics Carnival Open Championship at Sydney Olympic Park in 2019 is proof of that.
But there is more than just speed to Koula’s game. A player with good ball skills and movement, Koula is a quality young centre.
The endless tries on the You Tube clips is further testimony.
It’s been that way for the past few years ever since Koula juggled the demands of playing rugby union in winter, athletics in spring, and then representing Manly in the junior representative ranks in the late summer.
Born in Sydney to Tongan parents, Koula joined the Sea Eagles at 14 and came through the Sea Eagles Pathways Academy. He played in Manly’s inaugural Harold Matthews Cup premiership win in 2018.
Some more good performances for Manly’s SG Ball team in 2019 and 2020 saw Koula fast-tracked into the 2021 Sea Eagles full-time squad straight after finishing his HSC at Newington College.
“It was a pretty busy schedule in between my studies but I always enjoyed my rugby league, and it was something that I could see myself doing professionally after school,’’ Koula said.
“The first few weeks of doing full-time straight after finishing the HSC was tough. It was a big jump going from the Manly SG Ball team straight into the top squad and training with the big boys.
It was one of those pinch me momentsTolu Koula on going from the HSC into the Top 30 squad
"I’m just really grateful for the opportunity the Sea Eagles have given me and the faith they have in me.
“Obviously my goal is to make my NRL debut but I’ve just got to keep learning, keep working hard, and keep asking plenty of questions as there are a lot of quality experienced players here to get advice from.”
Sea Eagles team-mate and fellow speedster Jason Saab said he was impressed with Koula’s athleticism.
“With the coaching staff we have here, he is going to turn into a very good player because athleticism is not something that can be taught really, so he has got that covered,’’ Saab said.
“He is becoming a better footy player every week with his training.
“I just like how explosive he is. He is quick. His speed has helped him so much with what he has been doing at training the last couple of weeks.
"Tolu is quicker than me off the mark. I’m more of a come home type of runner.”
So is Koula quicker overall than Saab?
“I don’t buy into that talk. We’re both quick,’’ Koula said, with a grin.
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