Talakai happy to stay in pack to help depleted Sharks

Scott Bailey |

Siosifa Talakai would be open to a full-time return to Cronulla’s forwards.
Siosifa Talakai would be open to a full-time return to Cronulla’s forwards.

Siosifa Talakai says he would be open to a full-time return to Cronulla’s forwards, after revealing he was the one to suggest a move infield to help fix the club’s injury crisis.

One of the most destructive centres in the game, Talakai started in the second row for the first time in two years against Canberra on Sunday night.

The 26-year-old had limited involvement, playing 53 minutes and running the ball just four times in the come-from-behind win.

The Sharks will get suspended second-rower Briton Nikora back after next week’s bye, with the Kiwi expected to slot straight into the role Talakai filled on Sunday.

But there are potential headaches for coach Craig Fitzgibbon ahead of round six against South Sydney.

Kayal Iro scored a try and set up another in Talakai’s regular spot of left centre, while several middle forwards could remain out against Souths.

And Talakai said he would be happy to stay in the pack if asked by Fitzgibbon. 

“I don’t really have a preference,” Talakai told AAP.

“It was just good to get a bit of rust out. It made me find my love for the back-row position again. 

“I just loved being involved in the physical and mental battle.”

He admitted battling early against Canberra, but was confident he would be better placed if asked to stay in the pack against the Rabbitohs.

“I won’t lie, I was a bit rattled at first. Rusty too. It hit me straight in the mouth and I was just trying to hang on,” Talakai said. 

“It was the quickness of the game. When you’re out in the centres you’re not always involved. You don’t have to always make a decision or shift, where you’re in pretty much every play in the second row, either in the middle or the link between the edge. 

“It’s just repetitions. I’ll be better for it after tonight. 

“But once I got my second wind, I felt pretty comfortable. I enjoyed it. I’ve just got to work on little things. I’ll take that into account and work hard on my craft.”

A centre when he began in the NRL before moving to lock at South Sydney, Talakai had the most try assists of all centres last season.

But with Dale Finucane (eye socket), Toby Rudolf (ankle), Braden Hamlin-Uele (knee), Royce Hunt (calf) and Nikora (suspended) all out against Canberra, Talakai made a point of telling Fitzgibbon he was happy to shift in.

“I wanted to get ahead of it, and make sure he knows  I’m willing,” Talakai said.

“We have a big thing about selfless acts, it’s part of our culture and who we are. 

“I knew there was going to be an opportunity and I wanted to give coach some confidence that I’m ready to put my hand up.”