How wallabies lured Tongan Thor to Australia


Tupou’s schoolboy highlights reel for Auckland’s Sacred Heart College first XV went viral and at the time he was mentored by a coach, Dave Dillon, who had close ties to Rennie.

Rennie had just claimed back-to-back Super Rugby titles with a Chiefs team featuring the likes of Aaron Cruden, Brodie Retallick and a young future All Blacks captain in Sam Cane.

Taniela Tupou was one of the Wallabies' best in the first Bledisloe Test.

Taniela Tupou was one of the Wallabies’ best in the first Bledisloe Test.Credit:AP

“I went down there and watched them train twice and met up with Dave,” Tupou told the Herald. “He told me he wanted me to stay there and join the Chiefs.

“The Waratahs were interested in signing me and the Brumbies spoke to my manager. When I finished school, my brother told me he thought it was best I come to Australia because there were more opportunities there. I knew I was coming to Australia but wasn’t sure where I was going to go.

“There was offers but the Reds wanted it more. I met [Reds general manager] Sam Cordingley in an Auckland McDonald’s restaurant and signed my first rugby contract there for the Reds.”

The Herald checked in with Cordingley to verify the yarn and the former Wallabies halfback had a chuckle about the meeting.

“I was hoping that one never got out,” Cordingley said. “Talking to his agent, we said rather than do this from a distance, face-to-face is better. I flew over to Auckland and he wanted to meet in a location that was comfortable with him. The north Auckland McDonald’s was the preference. I think I bought him a couple of Big Mac meals.

“I remember thinking, ‘I just can’t let Damien Marsh, our head of physical prep, know that I’ve done this’.

“We don’t often like to sign up guys based on highlight reels alone but we thought that anyone with that sort of physical ability is going to be able to transition pretty well.”

Once he found out, it’s understood Rennie’s final words to Tupou were along the lines of: “I’ll get you one day”.

When the pair reunited earlier this year, Tupou went straight up to his new Wallabies boss.

“It’s funny, when I first saw Dave I walked up to him and I said, ‘Mate, you would have left me at the Chiefs if you signed me’.

“He said, ‘It’s the first time I’ve been happy about that decision’. It worked out because if I’d signed at the Chiefs it would have been a different story. I’m happy to be here now.

“What I like about Dave is he’s a family man. You walk into the change room and he’s there playing the guitar and you start singing with him or have dinner with him. He’s so easy to work with.”

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Tupou was always destined to wear a gold jersey and did so for the first time in November 2017 against Scotland at Murrayfield.

Cheika signed on as Wallabies coach a few months after Tupou signed the dotted line for the Reds and used the tight-head prop on 19 occasions, with 16 of those Test appearances coming off the bench.

Tupou says he finds it a little “weird” that Cheika is working with Argentina this week and he’s certainly expecting some heat.

“Cheika knows a lot about us and he’ll have some inside info,” Tupou said. “We’re up for it. We know what we’re going to do. We just need to get out there and perform.

“Maybe he’ll be telling them to put pressure on me. Not just me, but everyone else. Knowing Cheik, he’ll throw everything at trying to beat us.”

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How wallabies lured Tongan Thor to Australia


Tupou’s schoolboy highlights reel for Auckland’s Sacred Heart College first XV went viral and at the time he was mentored by a coach, Dave Dillon, who had close ties to Rennie.

Rennie had just claimed back-to-back Super Rugby titles with a Chiefs team featuring the likes of Aaron Cruden, Brodie Retallick and a young future All Blacks captain in Sam Cane.

Taniela Tupou was one of the Wallabies’ best in the first Bledisloe Test.Credit:AP

“I went down there and watched them train twice and met up with Dave,” Tupou told the Herald. “He told me he wanted me to stay there and join the Chiefs.

“The Waratahs were interested in signing me and the Brumbies spoke to my manager. When I finished school, my brother told me he thought it was best I come to Australia because there were more opportunities there. I knew I was coming to Australia but wasn’t sure where I was going to go.

“There was offers but the Reds wanted it more. I met [Reds general manager] Sam Cordingley in an Auckland McDonald’s restaurant and signed my first rugby contract there for the Reds.”

The Herald checked in with Cordingley to verify the yarn and the former Wallabies halfback had a chuckle about the meeting.

“I was hoping that one never got out,” Cordingley said. “Talking to his agent, we said rather than do this from a distance, face-to-face is better. I flew over to Auckland and he wanted to meet in a location that was comfortable with him. The north Auckland McDonald’s was the preference. I think I bought him a couple of Big Mac meals.

“I remember thinking, ‘I just can’t let Damien Marsh, our head of physical prep, know that I’ve done this’.

“We don’t often like to sign up guys based on highlight reels alone but we thought that anyone with that sort of physical ability is going to be able to transition pretty well.”

Once he found out, it’s understood Rennie’s final words to Tupou were along the lines of: “I’ll get you one day”.

When the pair reunited earlier this year, Tupou went straight up to his new Wallabies boss.

“It’s funny, when I first saw Dave I walked up to him and I said, ‘Mate, you would have left me at the Chiefs if you signed me’.

“He said, ‘It’s the first time I’ve been happy about that decision’. It worked out because if I’d signed at the Chiefs it would have been a different story. I’m happy to be here now.

“What I like about Dave is he’s a family man. You walk into the change room and he’s there playing the guitar and you start singing with him or have dinner with him. He’s so easy to work with.”

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Tupou was always destined to wear a gold jersey and did so for the first time in November 2017 against Scotland at Murrayfield.

Cheika signed on as Wallabies coach a few months after Tupou signed the dotted line for the Reds and used the tight-head prop on 19 occasions, with 16 of those Test appearances coming off the bench.

Tupou says he finds it a little “weird” that Cheika is working with Argentina this week and he’s certainly expecting some heat.

“Cheika knows a lot about us and he’ll have some inside info,” Tupou said. “We’re up for it. We know what we’re going to do. We just need to get out there and perform.

“Maybe he’ll be telling them to put pressure on me. Not just me, but everyone else. Knowing Cheik, he’ll throw everything at trying to beat us.”

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