By Wayne Cousins (Wests Tigers Media Officer)
As far as a dream debut goes, it ranks up there with the very best.
Taniela Tuiaki became the 101th player to represent the Wests Tigers
when he made his first grade debut against the Warriors in Auckland
on Saturday, May 19.
Big, powerful and built like a locomotive, Tuiaki proved a real
handful for the Warriors with his pace and size, scoring two tries
in the 34-12 loss at Ericcson Stadium.
His two try effort on debut almost didn't happen in his native New
Picked by coach Tim Sheens as the 18th man for the game, Tuiaki
travelled with the team but was not expected to play. However a
virus saw experienced winger Shane Elford ruled out on game day,
resulting in Tuiaki getting a start off the interchange bench.
Tuiaki only had to wait 17 minutes before taking the field after
full-back Shannon McDonnell suffered a rib injury, forcing Sheens to
shift winger Daniel Fitzhenry back to full-back and Tuiaki moving
onto the wing.
At 105kg and 183cm, Tuiaki is one of the biggest wingers in the
competition - a position he has only played a handful of games in
for the Balmain-Ryde Eastwood Tigers in Premier League.
Discovered by assistant coach Royce Simmons playing for Tonga in the
Pacific Cup in 2004, Tuiaki played mostly prop and second row for
the Balmain Tigers last year.
A player with plenty of potential, Tuiaki was moved into the Wests
Tigers full-time squad this season.
Having started the season with the Balmain Ryde Eastwood Tigers in
the forwards, Premier League coach Peter Gentle moved Tuiaki to the
wing in round three to make way for players returning to the side
from the Wests Tigers team. It also gave him more game time.
Playing in the backs was not new for Tuiaki, who played in the
centres and on the wing in his rugby union days.
It didn't take long before Tuiaki started to impress the coaching
staff, scoring four tries in Premier League.
Several good games on the wing saw Tuiaki chosen in the Wests Tigers
squad for the Warriors game, with a view to using him as an
That was, until the injury to McDonnell, gave him his opportunity on
The Warriors quickly discovered the strength of the man, with two to
three players required to bring him down.
After settling in, Tuiaki then scored his first try in the 34th
minute with just his fourth touch of the ball after catching a Benji
Marshall no look flick pass.
As he celebrated with team-mates, Tuiaki couldn't help but smile,
with his gold tooth shining through.
With his confidence up, Tuiaki continued to play well, including
making a trysaving tackle on opposite winger Misi Taulapapa.
Tuiaki's second try in the 62nd minute highlighted his strength as
he beat two defenders with a powerful run to score in the corner.
With regular winger Fitzhenry out with a broken collarbone, Tuiaki
is set to earn more game time in coming weeks, with his versatility
to play wing, second-row or prop a real asset for the Wests Tigers.
Providing he can maintain his good form - he has scored two tries in
each of his last three games - then Wests Tigers supporters will be
hearing plenty more about "Locomotive 101''.
By Wayne Cousins, Wests Tigers Media Officer
Wests Tigers winger Daniel Fitzhenry has been ruled out for five to
six weeks with a broken collarbone.
Fitzhenry suffered the injury after being picked up in a four man
tackle and driven back in-goal in the 34-12 loss to the Warriors at
Ericsson Stadium on Saturday, May 19, in round 11 of the NRL Telstra
He will undergo surgery on Tuesday, May 23.
Full-back Shannon McDonnell suffered a suspected rib injury in the
match and will undergo further tests on the same day to determine
the extent of his injury.
He remains in doubt to represent NSW U19s against Queensland in the
match before the State of Origin on Wednesday, May 24.
Fitzhenry and McDonnell now join Ben Galea (hamstring), Shane Elford
(virus), Ryan O'Hara (corked upper arm), Sam Harris
Trimarchi (shoulder) and Liam Fulton (shoulder) on the club's
The injuries to Fitzhenry and McDonnell had a big impact on the
Wests Tigers backline against a fired up Warriors outfit.
The Warriors arguably produced their best first half of the season
to record a 22-6 lead at half-time.
The home side had a completion rate of 30 from 37 sets compared to
the Wests Tigers' 30 from 40 sets.
It was one of those games that saw the passes stick for the Warriors
and every team move pay off. For the Wests Tigers, it was a night
best forgotten as injuries and some poor handling let the side down.
The highlight for the Wests Tigers was the two try effort on debut
by giant winger Taniela Tuiaki, a late interchange replacement for
Tuiaki's first try came in the 23rd minute when he ran onto a
magical inside no look flick pass by five-eighth Benji Marshall to
score behind the posts.
Marshall converted the try to leave the Wests Tigers trailing 16-6.
Tuiaki then scored his second try after latching onto a pass by half-
back Scott Prince to beat two defenders to score in the corner.
Marshall converted the try from the sideline to leave the Wests
Tigers trailing 34-12 with the score remaining the same until full-
Apart from Tuiaki, lock Dene Halatau stood out in a beaten side with
The loss leaves the Wests Tigers in 11th position with four wins
from 10 games.
Wests Tigers will be calling on its army of supporters to remain
loyal and get out to support the team in a crunch match against
South Sydney at Telstra Stadium on Sunday, May 28, at 3pm.