Tupou’s trip: A new adventure for Anthony

In his seven years at the Cronulla Sharks new Wakefield forward Anthony Tupou just about saw it all.

Coaches sacked, drug scandals, star player misbehavior, club financial difficulties, you name it, Tupou experienced it and got the t-shirt.

So it might seem strange for the veteran back-rower to swap the Sutherland Shire for West Yorkshire, for the Sharks’ NRL rollercoaster to the bottom club in Super League of 2015.

But Tupou, who likes a challenge, doesn’t see it that way.

“It was stay at the Sharks or go to England, and I was lucky to be able to have a choice and this was it, for a few reasons,” he told Love Rugby League.

“One being the challenge of a team, because I’ve been there before with the Sharks, a team that hasn’t been going too well but with players with potential and hungry players.

“And you can see that. I thought that’s where I want to be.”

It was coach Brian Smith, who amazingly Tupou had never met before even though both had been in the NRL environment for some time, who convinced his fellow Australian that Belle Vue was the place to be.

Smith had previously coached Tupou’s younger brothers Willie and Ben at the Newcastle Knights.

“It was the first time I met him, which was crazy,” Tupou revealed.

“He coached my two brothers in the juniors and they had a lot of good things to say about him.

“When I spoke to him on the phone it was a good conversation and I thought, that’s probably the place for me.”

Tupou arrived at Cronulla in 2009 as a star of the game. He had spent five seasons with the Roosters, played in the 2004 grand final, made 11 appearances for Australia and represented NSW in State of Origin four times.

After the relative stability in Bondi, it would be a different story at Cronulla.

But the Sharks, long the basket case of the NRL, have certainly turned things around in the past 18 months with a sixth place finish last year and the club now on a firm financial footing.

Now Tupou wants to do the same with the Wildcats.

“When I started with the Sharks it was 2009 and that was one of the worst years,” the 33-year old explains.

“Then there was the year with the ASADA stuff happening, and just to be involved in a club that has turned it around, it’s pretty good. It’s a good feeling. Hopefully we can do it here.”

Smith has got Wakefield fans optimistic that 2016 will be much better than 2015 was.

The Wildcats have recruited strongly and results in pre-season have been positive.

If Wakey is to avoid the Middle 8s this year, then a strong combination from Tupou is vital.

In his 234 games the Australian has always led from the front and never shirked the tough stuff.

Last year he suffered a horrific broken jaw when he collided with the knee of New Zealand Warriors centre Konrad Hurrell. You can watch the collision above.

His season was expected to be over.

 

But Tupou got back on the field as soon as he could, returning three months later to play in important role for the Sharks in the semi-final.

He knows Super League won’t be as easy as some overseas imports think.

“It’s tougher than what you expect,” Tupou said.

“For me to come over here and think that it’d be a walk in the park, that’s not me. I’m taking it seriously. I know it’s going to be a challenge for me, that’s why I’ve been training so hard so I can give the best me.”

Considering his pedigree, Tupou may have a target on him as he clashes with rival forward packs in England.

But the laid-back Novocastrian welcomes that challenge.

“That’s just the way it goes,” he said.

“I used to be that person… with someone who’s done a little bit you want to get into them.

“That’s expected but I’d like to think I can handle myself.”

2015 was almost disastrous for Wakefield but this season the club starts with a clean slate. Stability is what the Wildcats seek and greater success on the field.

Tupou, for one, wants the club to aim high.

“There’s a lot of new players and some good players,” he said.

“We haven’t talked as a team about our goal but for me personally, I think definitely top eight at least.

“The way the boys have been training and their attitude, most of the time I’m trying to keep up with them.

“They’re young boys that are really hungry, which is awesome. You need that spark. I reckon at least the top eight and then who knows?”

 

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