Wellington-born Arana Taumata’s career already has more chapters than he cares to recall, but if he gets his way he has at least one more to write.
At 26 he is hunting a return to the NRL – a competition he debuted in back in 2008, but has played just 14 games in since – and currently he is grabbing some positive headline for his performances with the Newtown Jets.
We caught up with ‘AJ’ to see how things are going and to talk about his chances of making it back to the toughest rugby league competition in the world.
KLC: How are you enjoying being back at Newtown after a stint with Group 9 club Tumut?
AT: It’s always a good club eh, we get a lot of support all through Sydney and we have got a great side this year. A lot of the boys have come back from (Newtown’s NRL partner team) Cronulla very strong.
How big is your ambition to return to the NRL?
You don’t come back to play NSW Cup. Anyone (playing reserve grade) really wants to play NRL. Mentally I want to be there, I am in a better place now with family and some good support around me. If the opportunity does come – anywhere really, at any club – I’d love to jump on it. But I just want to train hard and play hard here and see what happens in the end.
Given you have played in the NRL before, do you have an advantage in some ways because you know you have what it takes in terms of skill and physical ability?
Yeah definitely, it’s working away from training, but on top of that footy has always been the easy part for me. It’s about bringing everything together and playing some good footy on the back of that.
Do you have to have a day job to survive right now as well as playing footy?
I got into real estate in the last couple of years so have been doing that. I have put that aside for now and really just want to work on getting back into the NRL and being a positive person for everyone. There are a lot of younger guys here and I have got a bit of experience.
Now that you are one of the older heads in the Newtown squad do you look at some of the younger guys and see them going through the same types of things you struggled with when you were younger?
Definitely mate, I think there are always going to be challenges, if you are young or if you are old. There are different challenges depending on where you are in your career. I think you have just got to remember what you are doing it for, if you are doing it for your family or if you are doing it for yourself.
You have just got to keep your goals at the top chart, see them every day and work hard towards them, mate. Anyone can make it, it’s just about the support that you have and how driven you are to reach those goals I guess.
I have still got mine. I don’t say them out very loud, but I am ticking away and hopefully I can get back in.
There are plenty of Kiwis in the Newtown squad, do you enjoy being around them and helping them out along the way?
I moved away from New Zealand when I was 14 so it’s always good to play with a lot of the Kiwi boys. We have got Jaline Graham here who is still a young bloke, Nu Brown as well.
How different is your mental state now to what it was in your younger days when you struggled with a lot of stuff off the field?
I hardly drink anymore, it just keeps your mind clearer. I have got a little daughter now so there’s more to it now than just myself. I am getting older, so a few beers and it takes me a while to recover, but I know where my head is at, I know what my goals are and I know where I want to be.
I know how hard it is to get back into the NRL and do it every week. If I get the possibility to get back there I know I won’t waste it; but I know how hard it is to get back there.
I am working as hard as I can off the field to get my body right, mentally I am in a great spot. I have just got to play some good footy mate and hopefully I turn some heads.