CONTENT: Veteran forward Anthony Tupou has played three games for the Newcastle Knights since signing with the club a month out from the NRL season. Picture: Max Mason-HubersANTHONY Tupousays he made the decision to leaveEnglish Super League club Wakefield Trinitylast December for his wife, Kimberley.
In the end, it’s led to his own football dream coming true at the Knights.
With no guarantees of a deal in Australia, the former Test and NSW State of Origin starwas content to brush aside the second year of his two-season Wakefield contract and do what was best for Kimberley and their sonsRyder, 7, and Jovi, 5.
For Tupou, 34,that meant potentially returninghome and playing for his schoolboys club, Wests, in the Newcastle Rugby League whilestarting life after professional football a little earlier than planned.Another option was staying in Kimberley’s home town of Christchurch, New Zealand.
“I left England and I had nothing,” Tupou said.“It was a risk, but it was sort of where I was at. I was just content to see whatever happens, happen.”
What happened was a one-year lifeline at his juniorclub and an overdue debut for the NRL team he followed as a boy.
“It wasn’t really about the money here at the Knights,” he said.“Everyone has sort ofrealised that, with what the Knights meant to meas a younger mangrowing up here and seeing those legends go around.For me, it was more about being able to be hereand having the opportunity to represent the Knights.”
The softly-spoken former Sharks and Roosters enforcersaid his family “had the times of our lives” in England but were glad to be settled in Newcastle.
“The boys got to see a new country and were excited, and we got to see snow, me for the first time, and we loved it,” he said. “Inside and outside of footy, we had a good crew over there, but I just felt it was time to come home and to get my wife back around herfamily.
“I felt it was unfair. She’d followed me around for 14 years, and with no help for herwith two little boys. It was pretty challenging and I felt like I could make that decision for her, and it just turned out in my favour as well. I’ve ended up here at the Knights.”
Tupou was unsure about football past this year but said Newcastlewas definitely home after winning over Kimberley.
“She loves it now,” he said. “She wasn’t quite sold on Newcastle over the years. I met her back in 2004 and I’ve been trying to get her to like Newcastle ever since, but now we’reactually here, she’s starting to see it for what it is–the best place in the world, in my opinion.
“There’s been a lot of good changes in my family and to be here to witness it, it’s been so good.We’re all on a bit of a high at the moment.Without going into detail,life’s going good.”
The Tupou namehas regularly featured in Newcastle Rugby League circles for many years and Anthony was glad to be back among his family. His brothers, Willie, Ben and Jon, have all played in the local competition.
“I think there’s 130 something of us here,” he said.
“My old man’s family,we’re all in Newcastle, so chances are I’ll always bump into someoneI know here everyday.”
Anthony’s family are living in Adamstown and the next generation are already lining up in Wests colours. He said “Ryder plays at Wests and he loves it” and Jovi is ready to follow in his footsteps.
“They’ve had a bit of a disjointed run,” he said of his sons.
“They’ve been to four different schools in three years. They wereenrolled in New Zealand because we weren’t sure we’d come to Newcastle.
“We went from Sydney, to England then New Zealand, and now we’re back here and we’re settled. We’ve told them now, ‘this is it, this is where we’re staying’.
”The plan was always to settle here in Newcastle, it’s just taken a bit longer than we thought to get here.
“It’s funny how football works, to end up here at the end of my career. I feel so fortunate and that feeling hasn’t left.”
Tupou has playedthree games this year, after signing a month out from the season, and he was happy with his progress.
“I missed a lot of the pre-season but I feel like my fitness is good now and I’m up to speed with all the plays and I’ve got some good relationships with the boys and how they play now,” he said.
“So I think the next coming weeks I’m going to look to help out the team more and play the football that I’m used to.”
As for a second year at the Knights, he said: “I’ll leave it up to them.
“I’m not going to push. If they think I can bring something to them next year, then, of course.
“I’ll just see how I am at the end of the year, because I’m loving this now and I don’t want to think about anything else than just playing this year. It’s amazing.”