ONE-TIME rugby league bad boy Tevita Latu has returned to New Zealand and will play for the Warriors' feeder team, the Auckland Vulcans.
The talented ex-Cronulla Sharks hooker had his contract ripped up and deregistered by the NRL in 2006 after he punched a 19-year-old female model in the face at a Sydney petrol station during a night out.
He was convicted of assault and served 200 hours of community service after appealing his original sentence of eight months' periodic detention.
Later that year, he signed to play with the Wakefield Wildcats in the Super League before returning to Australia last year after agreeing to turn out for the Central Queensland Comets in the Queensland Cup.
It is understood he moved back to New Zealand in December and called Vulcans coach Ricky Henry to see whether he could trial for the team. He has also agreed to play for Pt Chevalier in Auckland's Fox Memorial competition.
Latu, who last night took the field against the Windsor Wolves in Sydney, is not contracted to the Vulcans but will play for match payments. He is now also on the radar of the Warriors but chief executive Wayne Scurrah said any possible contract offer at this stage had not been discussed.
''Any Vulcans player is considered for selection. If he's performing on and off the field to all expectations, he wouldn't be excluded from consideration,'' Scurrah said.
''Ultimately, it comes down to the coach and how he plays. At the end of the day, he's playing for the Auckland team and we would be guided by how he goes on the field. We haven't had to consider him yet but would do that at the right time.''
Vulcans manager Steve Brewster said Latu's past had been ''a consideration'' but also said he believed in second chances.
''We are always concerned about people's past but we are prepared to give Tevita an opportunity,'' Brewster said. ''We've done that previously and things have panned out fine.''
Henry said Latu had ''bought in to the team's culture'' and had trained with total commitment during the pre-season.
''This is an opportunity for him and hopefully he puts his best foot forward,'' Henry said.
''He looks really good. He's not as quick as he was when he originally left the Warriors but over the last two weeks he's been looking really good.''
At 30, Latu is unlikely to fulfil his wish of returning to the NRL. Henry said he hoped it wasn't the end of the hooker's career but was also realistic about his chances of progressing beyond the NSW Cup.
''I had a good, long conversation with him when he came back to New Zealand and we talked about what happened when he was at Cronulla in 2006,'' Henry said.
''There's been nearly seven years since. I said to him that the values I have instilled in the team are about honesty, trust and respect.
''He's definitely lived by that in the last couple of months. He deserves an opportunity and the ball's in his court right now.
''He's actually told me he wants to give something back to the game, to the young guys who are coming through the system.''