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Origin call-up perfect fix for hungry Tupou

As Daniel Tupou reflected on his NRL campaign at the conclusion of the 2020 season, it became very clear to the veteran Roosters winger that he wasn’t yet ready to stop playing rugby league.

Tupou played the least NRL matches of his career since 2013 this season with just 15 appearances, which was partly due to a syndesmosis injury on top of an already shortened season.

There was a hunger that had not yet been fulfilled, and a call-up from New South Wales Coach and Roosters legend Brad Fittler for a Blues reunion was the perfect answer to his problem.

A veteran presence and a consistently high achiever, Tupou has one of the most impressive resumes amongst wingers in the NRL.

This includes an Origin series win in 2014, 3 NRL Premiership victories, 2 call-ups to the New South Wales City team, 12 caps for Tonga, 1 match for the Prime Minister’s XIII and 1 match for Australia in 2014.

Tupou doing what he does best, flying high above the rest
Tupou doing what he does best, flying high above the rest

Some would call it a well overdue return to the squad, with Tupou not competing in an Origin match since game one of the 2015 series under then coach Laurie Daley.

The 2014 drought-breaking series, in which he played all three games for New South Wales, comes with fond memories for Tupou who was just a 23 year old when he first donned the sky blue jersey for the first time.

"I have heaps of good memories from that series," Tupou said reflecting on 2014. 

"It was such a buzz, a packed house and a crazy atmosphere against a Queensland team with a bunch of GOATS (Greatest of all time).

"Being a 23 year old in that atmosphere was pretty cool and to be a part of the team that broke the drought was unreal. 

"It was a dream come true to get the win, to be a part of it.

"That first game being on the wing I was getting sprayed by the crowd literally the whole time.

"Pretty surreal to look back on it."

He's become the complete player

Brad Fittler

The audition for Tupou's Origin campaign would be his first City v Country match in Mudgee back in 2014 that would end in a draw thanks to a thrilling final ten minute spurt from the City side. 

Tupou scored two tries in that match, one through an athletic effort doing what he does best in the air and the other tip-toeing the touchline in the midst of the final ten minute run. 

"Being able to perform at those rep sides on the back of playing good footy with the Roosters was a bonus.

"That year was a bit of a blur for me, but man I was so grateful for all of those opportunities."

Tupou runs up the ball in City v Country clash
Tupou runs up the ball in City v Country clash

Tupou was asked to join the extended squad within 24 hours of the Semi Final against the Canberra Raiders. 

While it's currently unknown what his role in the team will be, Tupou is just enjoying training with elite footballers at the back end of the season. 

No stranger to playing in rep sides this time of the year though, the plan is to work hard and stay busy during this time of training with the Blues squad. 

"There's a great group of guys here. 

"It's going really well so hard and the training's been intense. 

"The body's good at the moment, at the end of the season I was still so keen to keep going and keep playing more games."

Tupou training with the Blues
Tupou training with the Blues

Blues coach Brad Fittler was quick to heap praise on Tupou, claiming his re-call to the side was an easy choice given his form in 2020. 

"He's been absolutely fantastic this year," Fittler said of Tupou. 

"Not only is he a target, he brings the ball out of trouble.

"He's become the complete player."

Tupou's itch to continue playing and training was answered with his call-up to the squad, with finalised teams to be named for the Blues as early as next week.

While nothing is yet set in stone, the goals are simple heading into the upcoming State Of Origin campaign.

"Just want to train well, keep the body fit and if I do get called then I know I'll be ready.

"In the meantime, train hard, carve up, repeat."

Tupou runs out onto Suncorp Stadium for his first Origin match
Tupou runs out onto Suncorp Stadium for his first Origin match