Zane Tetevano's blunt admission as Leeds Rhinos star plans payback following flat first season

By Matthew Shaw

Zane Tetevano isn't happy with how his first year at Headingley played out.

He arrived with big expectations, joining Leeds Rhinos as a marquee player after reaching the NRL Grand Final with Penrith.

But, in no uncertain terms, he is the first to admit that his debut season didn't go anything like he had anticipated. The New Zealand international only made 12 appearances as a combination of suspension, Covid-19 and injury kept him on the sidelines as much as he was on the field.

As a result, Tetevano feels he has some work to do and wants to make amends for an underwhelming maiden campaign.

"I'm not too fond or happy about it, to be honest," he said.

"I just haven't been able to play how I want to play. Everything just had a flowing effect and affected me mentally off the field. If anyone was to ask me what I thought about 2021, I would say I just want to put it behind me and move forward and at the same time pick up on some good moments and some moments I'd definitely want to forget.

"If you know me as a person, I like to be playing and keeping busy. That's what I'm here for, to play and to help this club achieve its goals."

Tetevano admitted that the pressure of coming over from Australia was a contributing factor, with the 30-year-old desperate not to be labelled as another big-name overseas signing who didn't live up to his reputation.

"Coming from Australia, it's not so much that there was a target on my head but I want to be playing and competing with my teammates, I don't like that feeling of being another guy that's just come over and is sitting on the sidelines.

"That's something that was hovering over me, I don't want to be another guy coming over. Like I said before, I've some personal goals I want to achieve things and that will lead into my craft and the way I play."

He isn't keen to make any excuses, either. Some felt he was harshly punished when he received a four-match ban for a challenge on Theo Fages last April while adapting to life in a new country without his family was another complication.

But he insists he could, and should, have dealt with the setbacks, suspensions and Covid better.

"The games have rules and you've got to follow them. I started off pretty well in the season and me personally, I think just tried to prove something when I could have stayed in my lane and the flow of the game.

"Coming to a new club, one with history, people expect a lot of you and I tried to do more than I could handle and it probably showed in glimpses with me being too aggressive. It's part of the game I'm working on, finding controlled aggression, sticking within the game plan and trusting the process.

"I've just got to get it right. I've got to get my tackle technique and balance so I'm on the field because to be quite honest I have a lot of catching up and owing to do now. Being on the sidelines doesn't help me and it's something I don't like to be honest with you.

"Last year was the first time like that for me to be in that position, I've always been healthy, fit and ready to go and never had time on the sidelines for long periods of time. That was a change of mentality really, but then again it's up to me to stay true to my values, looking after my body and being prepped. I was out for ten weeks and mentally trying to stay in the game was difficult and it's something I worked on.

"When I got Covid, I was eating rubbish, I couldn't do anything at all, things have a roll on your comeback to your playing then I just wasn't prepped well. I know why, it's just being professional and knowing your body, if you're eating wrong something is bound to happen."

The good news is that Tetevano believes he is perfectly prepared for a good season. He has been in attendance from the first day of pre-season, unlike last season, while his family has now joined him in the UK and settled into life in the city.

"I've got my support which gives you the icing on the cake. You've got your kids, your partner and everything around you. It's growing. I'm just looking forward to just finishing this pre-season with this group of lads and the new signings that have been great.

"I know my personal goals and being here for pre-season and having that under my belt with the guys around has helped. I've definitely got some goals personally and some goals for the team."


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