Blues counting on not-so-secret weapon
It’s no secret the Tumut Blues recruited well this season, with big names such as Jed Pearce, Jake McGrath, Matt Byatt, Connor Massen and Michael Fenn either returning to the fold, or joining the club for the first time.
Each recruit has done their part this season, which is a big reason why Tumut finished the regular season as the undefeated Minor Premiers.
Still, it was the low-key signing of Tevita ‘Tolo’ Aroha-Tuinauvai shortly after round one that has proven to be one of the club’s most shrewd acquisitions.
The rampaging centre has been unstoppable at times, and after only one training session with the squad, he scored two tries on debut in Tumut’s round two 24-18 win over Wagga Kangaroos.
Although not being available at all times this season due to family and work commitments, Aroha-Tuinauvai has gone on to score against Southcity in round four and Brothers in round seven.
It’s not the 25-year-old’s scoring feats that has the Blues excited, instead it is the way the stocky metre eater sets the platform early each set.
More often than not, Aroha-Tuinauvai will have the first hit up, drawing in three or more defenders but still finding his front for a quick play the ball, allowing the likes of Zac Masters, Jed Pearce, Jacob Sturt and Michael Fenn to get a roll on.
Aroha-Tuinauvai’s impact during last weekend’s win over Gundagai wasn’t lost on co-captain/coach Dean Bristow either.
“He was massive for us, a lot of times when they built pressure when we were looking to ruck it out, he would come in for a carry and make 10 metres and get three people in and get us rolling,” Bristow said.
“The boys played off the back of him and they loved it.”
Bristow said it wasn’t a roll assigned to Aroha-Tuinauvai, suggesting the Blues recruit thrived on taking that first big hit up each set.
“I think that he has really taken that roll upon himself, it is not something we have pushed upon him, he just loves to come in and get the sets started off, Bristow said.
In another strong facet of Aroha-Tuinauvai’s game, the Blues will hope to use their strike weapon close to the line in Sunday’s preliminary final against Gundagai at Twickenham.
“If we get him one-on-one with someone close to the line, they are all but no chance of stopping him and that is something we need to utilise there,” Bristow said.
“He is getting his match fitness and coming into his own, which is really good for us and I’m excited to see what he can offer this week and for the rest of the year.”
Aroha-Tuinauvai said his patented hit ups was just a way he contributed to the team and helped his hard-working forwards.
“I try to contribute where I can, our big boys get through a lot of work (and) I just try to ease their workload a bit,” Aroha-Tuinauvai said.
The Canberra footballer said he was enjoying his time in Tumut and Group 9 and when comparing competitions, he said town and team pride really stood out compared to the Canberra Cup.
“I’m loving it at Tumut. All the boys have a great chemistry and also the people around the club just want what’s best for each other, it’s really nice to be a part of,” Aroha-Tuinauvai said.
“Group 9 is a really tough competition but I’m loving the challenge. I think there’s a lot more pride in everyone’s teams in Group 9 compared to Canberra.
Aroha-Tuinauvai is now preparing to help Tumut to a place in the 2020 grand final and was confident in Tumut’s chances of going all the way.
“I think we have a strong chance, and on Sunday we need to bring the same attitude as we did last week and fight for every inch,” Aroha-Tuinauvai said.