A mentor off the field and a marauder on it. They are the dual roles Brisbane veteran Sam Tagataese has set himself for 2019.
The 31-year-old veteran’s value as a guide to the Broncos young forwards off the field is immeasurable but he is also inspired to join them more on it next year than he did in 2018 after an honest self-appraisal of his season.
The 2016 Sharks premiership winner played four NRL games for Brisbane in 2018, the most modest return for any season in his 13-year career.
It is a record the 172 NRL-gamer does not want to repeat and why he has returned to pre-season training in the best shape of his career.
Tagataese was 109kg when he started last pre-season but has turned up a fit 106kg this year after shedding three kilos.
He mentors Year 12 students at Wavell State High where he talks about goal setting. Tagataese figured it was vital to practise what he preached so he set a few goals for himself in the off-season.
One of those was to go on 5km runs for the first time in his life and he soon cut five minutes off his best time in a matter of days.
Waiting for a contract extension from Brisbane was "a gruelling time" but he intends to make the most of signing a one-year deal after he described the recent season as one that "wasn’t what I wanted".
"I’m definitely rapt to get another chance and do it on my terms with a bit of a change of mindset as well,” Tagataese said after Broncos training on Wednesday
"Even though I have been in the game a long time, this year I encountered [the fact] I needed to improve myself after looking at the young guys coming through.
"I looked at my career as well and there is a bit of inconsistency with injuries and performance-wise so I thought ‘I might as well put it all in and give it a good shot’."
Tagataese is proud of his Samoan background and the Broncos have a suite of forwards with Polynesian heritage such as Payne Haas, David Fifita, Tevita Pangai jnr and Joe Ofahengaue who look to him for guidance, but he is not ready to give up a spot in the 17 to them on a plate.
"If I can bring the best out of myself I can challenge the younger guys as well, and if they are training well I can challenge myself to compete."
With Josh McGuire’s exit to the Cowboys there is a void in the starting side at lock.
Boyd happy to be back training
It is a young man’s game but Tagataese has to look no further than his former Sharks teammate Chris Heighington’s 2016 premiership at the age of 34 to believe the golden years of a forward’s career can also be rewarding ones.
"Looking at Heighno, he was a great bloke, great mentor and I had some great times in Cronulla with him and to see the way he finished off his footy career as well," Tagataese said.
"For me that is another challenge to getting the best out of myself. I’ll take it year by year and if the opportunity comes again in 2020 I’ll definitely consider it."