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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Max McKinney

The move that helped Newcastle Knights winger Enari Tuala turn the corner

Knights winger Enari Tuala came to Newcastle wanting to prove he could be a "full-time NRL player".

The outside back had played 18 games over three seasons with his former club North Queensland.

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For a young rookie from Cairns, it was by all means a decent start to an NRL career.

But after two-and-a-bit seasons with the Knights, Tuala now admits he was "lazy" at his old club and had it not been for the change of scenery, he may not have become a regular first-grader.

ONE OF HIS BEST: Knights winger Enari Tuala scores in the corner against Parramatta in week one of the NRL finals last year at Browne Park in Rockhampton. Picture: Getty Images

"I just wanted to play my best footy. I was being a bit lazy when I was up at the Cowboys," Tuala said.

"I just wanted to come down here and prove I could be a full-time NRL player."

Tuala, 23, will make his 50th appearance for the Knights against Manly on Thursday night, having reached the milestone almost as quickly as possible - he has missed only one game since joining the club, a week where he was rested.

"I wasn't counting, it just popped up," Tuala said of the "nice little milestone".

"It's exciting."

WRAPPED UP: Tuala being tackled by Cronulla players last week. Picture: Getty Images

On the eve of the game, the Knights winger reflected on swapping Townsville for Newcastle before the 2020 season, saying it had been a "pretty easy" decision to make and was a move he is glad he went through with.

"I knew KP [Kalyn Ponga] - he was already down here," Tuala, who the Cowboys let go at the end of 2019, said.

"When I moved down, he helped me out a lot.

"I just wanted to come down here and do my best. It's worked out great so far."

Tuala has become a Mr Reliable of sorts at the Knights by being a constant on the team sheet each week and playing either centre or wing when required.

In his 49 appearances, he has scored 26 tries - finishing as the club's leading try-scorer the past two years.

He mainly played centre until making what has become a more permanent shift to the wing late last year.

While they say a change is as good as a holiday, it was Tuala's approach to making the most out of his move to Newcastle that helped him turn a corner in his career.

NEW HOME: Tuala walking off from a game at McDonald Jones Stadium.

"I wanted to come down here and have, like a fresh-start mentality," he said.

The Edmonton Storm junior, who represented Queensland as a teenager, played in the Australian Prime Minister's XIII side in 2018 and is also eligible for Samoa, earned a new two-year deal for his efforts with the Knights late last year.

Tuala said his first two seasons at the club had boosted his confidence and left him pondering what else he could achieve. But, for now, his focus remains simply playing well each week.

"I've been looking at bigger goals for myself now, moving down here and knowing what I can do," he said.

"I just want to do my job for the boys here.

"Meeting this group of boys, they're really close and we're just like a family. I just want to do it for them."

TIGHT GROUP: Tuala celebrates a try with Knights teamamtes.
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