Rookie Hub: The massive numbers behind Burleigh Bears young gun Taine Tuaupiki’s NRL push
As one Gold Coast rookie prepares to chase chances on the back of a breathtaking season, another has been thrust to the cusp of the NRL ahead of time. KEEP UP WITH THE GOLD COAST ROOKIES TO WATCH HERE >>
August 5, 2022 - 10:21AM
Gold Coast Bulletin
Tell Taine Tuaupiki 12 months ago that he would be mixing it with the rugby league elite and he would “laugh in your face”.
Now, the Burleigh fullback has made it no secret he is plotting a path to the NRL — even if it means leaving the Gold Coast to do so.
The Bears rookie has been electric throughout the Queensland Cup campaign, his first at this level on the back of two seasons in which he dominated the Rugby League Gold Coast competition.
Since then he has thrust himself into the frame for player of the year honours, showcasing an enterprising brand of football within a side that has charged to the top of the table.
Having been let go from the Titans three years ago, after being a member of their junior pathways, Tuaupiki said he appreciated he may need to move in order to capitalise on his run of form.
Despite the Gold Coast enduring a horror NRL season, fullback is a position they have been well stocked.
When fit, Jayden Campbell has proven to be a star of the future, while five-eighth AJ Brimson made his name in the number one jumper enough to earn a State of Origin debut.
Tuaupiki’s forthcoming custodian rival in Paul Turner
is also signed to the club, and set to take on the Bears this weekend for Tweed, while Future Titans squad member Jaylan De Groot will also line up at fullback for the Seagulls’ Colts.
But after getting a taste of first-grade football on a train and trial stint with the Titans this year — culminating in a trial clash against the Broncos — Tuaupiki said the fuse had been lit and he was craving a shot at the elite, wherever that may be.
“With anyone that would talk to me, I don’t think I’d hold back on letting them know I have aspirations going to that next level,” Tuaupiki said.
“A lot of people can see that as arrogance or being overly confident, but I guess when you want something that bad you say it until it comes true.
“Two years ago if you said I could’ve had the potential to run with the top grade team I would’ve laughed in your face, but 100 per cent that (the NRL) is my goal for next year.
“Hopefully our Burleigh team can make it through (deep) into the finals because I know that’s when clubs are watching. Right now doesn’t mean too much, it’s in the September footy when all clubs watch us.
“I think the Gold Coast have sorted themselves in the fullback position; they have a lot of young talent coming up.
“But if I got a phone call from (Titans coach) Justin (Holbrook) or anyone at the Titans I’d drop the tools and join them and would break some record times to get there.”
While Tuaupiki’s numbers have been eye catching in 2022, the man himself is adamant it was because of the calibre of talent he had around him that brought out his best.
The likes of halves Josh Rogers and Guy Hamilton, injured skipper Sami Sauiluma and winger Alofiana Khan-Pereira have all been in damaging form, and Tuaupiki was quick to deflect attention from his figures.
But sometimes statistics do not lie.
From just 12 appearances heading into Sunday’s battle at Piggabeen, the 22-year-old has crossed for 12 tries and been credited for 15 try assists, 19 linebreaks and 60 tackle busts — along with 140 running metres a game.
So what changed? What was the catalyst for Tuaupiki’s rise from star of the Rugby League Gold Coast to a front runner for the Queensland Cup’s Petero Civoniceva medal?
According to the enigmatic fullback it was two-fold — the constant teachings and motivation given by the man he unseated, Bears legend Kurtis Rowe, and his pre-season with the Titans.
It was there he saw how the off field professionalism — the diet, the recovery, the extra trainings — became far more demanding and separated the upper echelon from the rest.
Now, however, Tuaupiki said his current focus was on earning Burleigh a redemptive triumph over the Seagulls, and on getting one up over the other man at the back ahead of him in the Titans pecking order.
) is a gun and Pauly got my number last game, and he knows he did too, so I really want to make this one a little bit more personal,” he said.
“I try to do that every single week, I know there’s a few games where my opposite got the better of me and we may have left with the win, but I know my opposition number one played better than me.
“The best footballers, you ask them and you think they will answer it the same, but you always want to get over your opposite number and Pauly is a freak. I need it, I need to get the win.”