1st July 2020, 09:48 | nrl
Watching the likes of Sean Long, Ade Gardner and Francis Meli each week helped develop Tommy Talau’s passion for rugby league, and now the St Helens junior is making a name for himself in the NRL with Wests Tigers.
Talau, the son of former Saints and Salford centre Willie Talau, scored two tries in just his third appearance for the Tigers last weekend and he has retained his place for Saturday’s clash with the second-placed Penrith Panthers.
Just 20-years-of-age, Talau spent eight years living in England while his father played Super League and his first taste of rugby league was with St Helens junior club Blackbrook ARLFC.
Tommy, who played a part in the Australian Schoolboys' tour of English shores in 2018, has fond memories from his early Rugby League days in the UK.
“I started when I was five and played for them until I was about 10,” Talau said. “I don’t remember much about when my dad played in the NRL but in the Super League I went to pretty much every game.
“It was a pretty good experience growing up in another country and getting to watch my dad play every week. I think that is a big reason I am actually playing.
“Jamie Lyon was playing then too, and Sean Long, Francis Meli, Ade Gardner – Saints had some great players. James Graham was there, he came to St Helens when he was young. My dad told me a couple of stories about him. He said he was a fiery front-rower.”
Unfortunately, Talau never got the opportunity to play against Graham in the NRL before the England prop returned home last week to re-join St Helens for the remainder of the season.
England team-mate John Bateman is also on the move after Canberra confirmed he would not be at the club next season.
Bateman will again be missing when the Raiders host St George Illawarra in their first match at GIO Stadium since the NRL resumed, with the Green Machine looking to bounce back from last weekend’s 25-24 extra-time thriller against competition leaders Parramatta.
English trio Josh Hodgson, George Williams and Ryan Sutton have again been named by Canberra coach Ricky Stuart.
Round 8 commences on Thursday with the heavyweight clash between Sydney Roosters and Melbourne Storm, who have been forced to relocate indefinitely to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and play out of Suncorp Stadium following a COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.
The high-flying Eels meet North Queensland on Friday, with Jason Taumalolo leading the Cowboys to an impressive 32-20 defeat of Newcastle last weekend and fancying their chances of an upset as Parramatta are without injured halfback Mitchell Moses.
Justin Holbrook’s Gold Coast Titans are also building in confidence after the biggest victory against Brisbane in the club’s history last weekend – a 30-12 defeat that has placed the Broncos under massive scrutiny over their failure to win a match since the competition resumed.
Brisbane mentor Anthony Seibold, the former London Broncos forward who began his coaching career with the South Wales Scorpions, has dropped Queensland State of Origin winger Corey Oates for Saturday’s match against the New Zealand Warriors.
English rookie Herbie Farnworth has retained his place in the centres for the Broncos.
The injury hit Manly Sea Eagles, who crashed 40-22 to Cronulla last weekend without star fullback Tom Trbojevic and five-eighth Dylan Walker, take on the Knights in the first match on Sunday before Canterbury meet South Sydney at Bankwest Stadium.
England prop Luke Thompson was released from quarantine in Melbourne last Sunday and had his first training session with the Bulldogs after driving to Sydney but Canterbury coach Dean Pay is yet to confirm whether he will play.
Thompson has been named in jersey No.21 and Pay will leave a final decision up to the former St Helens forward as he had not been able to run while in quarantine for two weeks.
Rabbitohs prop and England team-mate Tom Burgess backed Thompson to make an impact in the NRL.
"I think he is going to kill it," Burgess said. "I know him well, I’ve played with him internationally and roomed with him last year.
"He has got a great work ethic and I think that is something that will go well for him over here. The game will suit his style of play. He is a hard runner, has good line speed and is a good defender.''
Week Eight fixtures - all live on Sky Sports:
10:50 - Melbourne Storm v Sydney Rooster
09:00 - Canberra Raiders v St George-Illawara Dragons
10:55 - Parramatta Eels v North Queensland
06:00 - Gold Coast Titans v Cronulla Sharks
08:30 - New Zealand Warriors v Brisbane Broncos
10:35 - Wests Tigers v Penrith Panthers
07:05 - Manly Sea Eagles v Newcastle
09:30 - Canterbury Bulldogs v South Sydney Rabbitohs