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Turning point that saved Talakai’s career

NRL Rd 10 -  Storm v Sharks
Siosifa Talakai had to mature as a person before he could return to the NRL, with the Sharks star set to bring up an important milestone on Friday night. Picture: Graham Denholm/Getty Images

Siosifa Talakai has credited his inspirational father for helping him go from a “stubborn” rookie at Souths to one of the most feared ball carriers in the NRL as he prepares to bring up his 100-game milestone on Friday night.

It’s been eight years since he made his NRL debut for Souths, with his Rabbitohs career ending abruptly after he had his contract torn up – something that he looks back on with deep regret.

Seeing how dominant he is today, it’s hard to imagine that Talakai’s career could have easily ended before it ever really got going, with the nuggety powerhouse unwanted by clubs and forced to spend his time working as a garbo in the inner west.

But something clicked off the field, with Talakai inspired by his dad’s monumental sacrifices to support the family and his actions sparking a colossal shift in how the Tongan star saw the world.

Rabbitohs vs Roosters at ANZ
Siosifa Talakai thought his career was over after he was let go by Souths. Picture: Gregg Porteous

“I was a bit disrespectful with the way that I handled my opportunity at the Rabbitohs, and I just wanted to pay him back for the things that he’s done for me and my family,” he said ahead of his milestone game.

“(He helped me) see things for what they were. He opened my eyes to being humble in general and making the most of my opportunity and seeing what was ahead.

“He opened my eyes to the struggles that we had when we were younger and the opportunity that I had.”

Talakai’s time away from the game gave him a greater appreciation for rugby league, but it also made him a better person who was rewarded with a deal at the Jets and a second chance with the Sharks.

“They (the years off) made me a better person,” he explained.

“I had a big ego when I was younger. I was very hard-headed and stubborn.

“Through the lessons in life, it opened my eyes and made me realise the opportunity that I had. It really humbled me and gave me life lessons which make you a better person.

“If you’re a good person off the field, it’ll show on the field.”

NRL Rd 10 -  Storm v Sharks
Talakai has developed into one of the most damaging runners in the NRL. Picture: Graham Denholm/Getty Images

Talakai has now represented NSW and Tonga, with the 27-year-old producing one of the best halves you will ever see when he terrorised Manly’s Morgan Harper back in 2022.

Talakai has now moved back to the forwards where he’s been just as effective, but winger Ronaldo Mulitalo will never forget that night in the Shire where he took advantage of his centre’s destruction with two tries of his own.

The pair have been separated this season with Kayal Iro now at centre, and Mulitalo says he “misses” his great mate whom he shared “a lot of coffees, beers, feeds and car rides” with to create their bond on the left.

NRL Rd 7 - Sharks v Sea Eagles
Ronaldo Mulitalo had the perfect view as Talakai torched the Sea Eagles two years ago. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

“He had some time away from the game to find himself again and to find his passion for the game, and I’m just so proud of him,” he said.

“He’s one of my best mates at this club and we basically started our journey together at the same time.

“The way he’s created the player I am today and all the accolades I’ve been able to rack up over the years, I put so much of it down to him and what he’s been able to do inside me.

“He’s been a world-class centre for so long with a silky touch to be able to put me away, so all my job has been has been to put the ball down. When you’ve got a big scary man there, it’s always been good.”