FORMER premiership-winning Wanderers hooker Andrew Tuala has stripped 14 kilograms off his burly frame in a final attempt to secure a Super Rugby contract.
Four days after being called into the Melbourne Rebels Super side for a trial against the Brumbies, the 26-year-old has been named in the Victorian’s side for the Brisbane Global Tens tournament this weekend.
Another Novocastrian prop Harry Johnson-Holmes, who along with Nick Palmer is at the NSW Waratahs, will also feature in Brisbane.
Unlike the Tahs duo, Tuala, who is in his second season at West Harbour, doesn’t have a Super Rugby contract.
“I was going to give up after this Shute Shield if nothing happened, come back to Newcastle, play local footy and look after my family,” said Tuala, who lives in Warrabrook and travels to Sydney for training and games. “Now I have this sniff at the Rebels, it gave me a spark and hopefully, if I have another good Shute Shield season, something comes up.”
Tuala has worked overtime on his fitness with West Harbour strength and conditioning coach Brayden Mellon and former Wanderers teammate Billy Coffey.
“ I was 139kg by the end of the campaign with the Rams in the National Rugby Championship. I was a bit heavy.”
“Now I am down to 126kg and am still going down. It is the best I have felt. If I want to get to the next level that is what I have to do.”
The Tens call-up came after Tuala was drafted into the Rebels side for their 50-19 trial loss to the ACT Brumbies last Saturday.
“I played about 45-50 minutes at loose head,” Tuala said. “It was a bit nervous because of the pace of the game. When I got on, it was all good. I didn’t feel out of place.
The head coach was happy with the way I performed. My carries were strong and I held up my end of the scrum up. He is going to communicate with me during the Shute Shield season goes. I am basically cover if anyone gets injured.”
But first is the Tens.
“I haven’t really played tens before,” Tuala said. “No way. It will be interesting. I feel much lighter on my feet. There is a lot more space to run but I’m not sure how the lungs will go.”