Back chasing career goals

OF all the things Kelepi Tanginoa learnt in his debut season; there is one in particular that stands out.

"Patience. That's the main thing I took out of last year and not to push myself too hard," Tanginoa said.

"I think the key for me is to be patient. Obviously I'm still young and I want to continue learning and developing and taking it one step at a time."

There was no sign that 2013 was going to be the year Tanginoa learnt about patience being a virtue.

Last year started — like one of his trademarks charges — with a bang.

The Cabramatta junior made his NRL debut in round two, he was elevated to the starting team in round four and was selected in the NSW under 20s team by round six.

There was no sign of the 20-year-old slowing down. Then came injury number one: a fractured left hand.

Nine games into his first NRL season and the Rhino was sidelined for eight weeks.

At the time it was almost a blessing in disguise to rest his body after a tough opening to the season where he graduated from Holden Cup prodigy to an 80- minute man NRL second-rower.

It meant he could get his body right for the back end of the season.

But then came injury number two.

In a cruel game of twister, it went left hand in cast, to right foot in moon boot.

A stress fracture in his foot meant Tanginoa's season was over. It was a double blow for the former Westfields Sports High student.

Not only did he have to sit idly in the stands while the Eels struggled on the field, he also missed his chance to represent Tonga at the World Cup.

"I won't lie it was pretty hard to sit on the sideline for five months but it's something everyone has to go through at some stage," he said.

"I spent three months in a moon boot so it meant I had to skip the World Cup to focus on my rehab and getting the strength back in my right leg.

"It meant a lot of extras in the mornings to get my fitness right and I was so excited to get a shot in round one and now I just want to stay there and continue to work hard."

The concept of training hard is not foreign to Tanginoa.

The NRL media guide points out that Tanginoa is often the first to get to training and the last to leave. It's why after almost nine months out of the game and with little trial form under his belt, coach Brad Arthur was still able to pick him for round one against the New Zealand Warriors.

NSW coach Laurie Daley also identified his talent after naming him in the 2014 under 20s Origin Pathways Camp late last year.

All that is left for Tanginoa is to reproduce the form that has seen him make four consecutive under-age NSW teams in the past four years.

He made his third straight appearance off the bench in the blue and golds heartbreaking 22-18 loss to Manly at the weekend.

It's the first step on the road to reaching his goal in 2014: to play good and consistent NRL footy. A goal he hoping to share with brother Saia, who is playing for Wentworthville in the Ron Massey Cup. "Who knows hopefully one day we can get out and play together in first grade," Tanginoa said.

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