NSW Origin: Souths powerhouse Tevita Tatola on Brad Fittler’s radar for the Blues
Blues coach Brad Fittler will leave NSW spots open for ‘bolters’ who stand tall in the preliminary finals and grand final — and one young Rabbitoh has already made a big impression.
Dean Ritchie , The Daily Telegraph
October 15, 2020 6:44pm
Junior is ready to become a senior.
NSW coach Brad Fittler has revealed why underrated South Sydney prop Tevita ‘Junior’ Tatola is being considered for a shock call-up into the extended NSW State of Origin squad.
Auburn-born Tatola, 24, has played 20 NRL games this season and averaged 13 runs a game for 109 metres along with 23 tackles.
And he can further enhance his Origin prospects with another powerful performance in Saturday night’s preliminary final against Penrith at ANZ Stadium.
Tevita ‘Junior’ Tatola has impressed Blues coach Brad Fittler. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Fittler has closely monitored Tatola’s form and has basically left open two to three spots in his Blues squad for ‘bolters’ who contest the grand final.
And Tatola – a 2016 Junior Kangaroo with Panthers opponents Dylan Edwards, Tyrone May and Nathan Cleary — is squarely in the frame.
“He’s been great,” Fittler said. “I have watched him for a while now. He has been very effective through the middle.
“Souths’ forward pack has been impressive and when you look a bit deeper, it is Tatola who is doing a really good job. The game against Newcastle (week one of the finals), Tatola had a blinder.
“He is having a big impact. There are some spots open, for sure.
“We have allowed ourselves a couple of spaces for players who really stand out over the last two games. It’s a carrot. There will be a couple of spots for grand finalists and players who stand up in those big games.
“We have 15 players (selected) so we have 12 spots left. We are weighing up front-rowers, who are winning games, the bench, just trying to take in as much info as we can.
“Leaving some spots open for grand final players is a mentality for Kangaroo tours. That’s how I got in there – because Wally (Lewis) was ruled out late and I was most likely player number 28. And we also still have ability to go back to players who didn’t make it originally.”
Tatola is ready and pumped to rip into the Panthers.
“I’m really enjoying my footy at the moment,” Tatola said. “It comes down to having a clear head and putting what you do at practice onto the field. That gives you a lot of confidence.
Tevita Tatola had a blinder against the Knights in week one of the NRL Finals. Picture: Brett Costello
“We will obviously need to come out strong against Penrith. They have won so many games this year and are obviously the benchmark of the NRL.”
Asked about playing with Cleary, May and Edwards in the Junior Kangaroos, Tatola said: “It was a great week when we played in the Junior Kangaroos together. The whole group was close, and we also came away with the win as well.”
Tatola scored two tries in Souths’ 46-20 finals win over Newcastle a fortnight ago.
Asked once by the media why he was named Junior, Tatola said: “My dad, Tevita, and mum, Loni, moved here from Tonga for a better life and I became the second youngest of seven kids – all boys.
“I think mum kept trying because she wanted a girl, but it didn’t happen so she had to give up eventually. My first name is Tevita as well, but my middle name is Junior and that’s what everyone ended up calling me. I like it.”