AFTER just one game, Marlon Solofuti is already enjoying the change of pace at Southern Beaches following the pressures of eight years in French professional rugby.
But the 35-year-old flanker can also feel the drive for a maiden premiership at his new club, who he debuted for in a 38-26 win over Nelson Bay on Saturday.
Solofuti has settled in Charlestown with wife, Marlene, and seven-year-old son, Maximus, after finishing his time in France.
The Samoan powerhouse comes from Pro D2 French club Soyaux Angoulêmel, who he joined after helping Section Paloise progress to the Top 14 league in 2015.
He also played with Toyota Verblitz in Japan for two years and for Manly in the Shute Shield between international contracts.
Now, though, he is keen to take a step back and explore life after professional rugby with the Beaches.
“I enjoyed it," Solofuti said of his debut.
“I’m used to a lot of pressure to perform. It’s a different type of rugby here. It’s actually quite fun.
“It’s so dirty, the rugby back in Europe, in the rucks and scrums, so you’ve really got to be prepared.
“On the weekend, I really just enjoyed myself, going back to the basics and just playing rugby.”
Solofuti and his family chose the easygoing lifestyle of Newcastle over a return to Sydney and a potential stint in the Shute Shield.
He is keen, though, to play on past this season and offer guidance on and off the field.
“Rugby has given me so much, I’ve travelled so much around the world and I wouldn’t have experienced what I have without rugby, so I’d like to give a little bit back as well,” he said.
“I thought this was a league town but there's so much rugby talent here and in Australia, so I’d like to get involved in development. I coach my son’s team a bit as well, so it’s just about giving a bit back.
“And I know all the guys at Southern Beaches are pretty keen to win something, because I don’t think they’ve won a premiership.
“Every team I’ve been with, we’ve won something, so I want to use my experience and transfer it to these guys.”
Beaches coach Johan Lourens believed Solofuti would offer leadership and a professional edge to his third-placed side as they looked to challenge the competition’s elite.
”He’s a strong ball carrier and he’s got a real rugby mind on his shoulders, so I only see good things ahead for us with him,” Lourens said.
“He really adds something to the team and the boys really enjoy his company which is probably the most important thing. On the weekend, he obviously hadn’t touched a ball in quite a while, but what we saw we were happy with, so we’re looking forward to the future.”