2019 JFLU20 Round 24 - New Zealand Warriors U20 v Wests Tigers U20, Mt Smart Stadium, 2019-08-31. Digital image by Peter Meecham � NRL Photos
2019 JFLU20 Round 24 - New Zealand Warriors U20 v Wests Tigers U20, Mt Smart Stadium, 2019-08-31. Digital image by Peter Meecham � NRL Photos

Second-tier trials would be life changing

The introduction of second-tier trial matches this season would be life-changing for fringe Wests Tigers prop Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu.

Prior to the NRL's shutdown, Ratuvakacereivalu was in contention for a top 30 position at the Tigers after impressing at the Nines tournament in Perth.

Then the coronavirus hit, forcing him out of the NRL squad and onto jobkeeper payments while working as a labourer.

Ratuvakacereivalu has mentally struggled since and is living in limbo after the Canterbury Cup competition was cancelled for 2020. So he would welcome a proposed second-tier trial match initiative.

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Wests Tigers’ Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu is hoping to turn his career around.
Wests Tigers’ Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu is hoping to turn his career around.

As revealed in The Daily Telegraph, NRL rivals like the Roosters and South Sydney could merge under a proposal to play fortnightly trial matches to give players outside the top 17 at each club regular match conditioning.

Coaches would pick their 21-man squads each Tuesday for that weekend's games then, players who miss out would be placed in a pool for the trial games.

The idea was tossed around at a recent NRL coaches' association meeting and will be discussed in further detail at the next meeting of Project Apollo on Friday.

"I think that idea is so good for all the Cup boys," said Ratuvakacereivalu, who has played 35 Canterbury Cup games for the Wests Magpies since 2018.

"Everyone is still wondering what the go is. We don't even know if we can play Ron Massey Cup, so it would help if we could play some football.

"It would be fun, give us a chance for some game fitness and give the boys a chance to show off to the NRL coaches and prove ourselves for a top 30 spot.

"I was so close to making the NRL team, so that is what hurts the most.

"You want to take every opportunity you get to impress the coach, but there is not much I can do with the season off."

The NRL must find a way to bring fringe players back to the game. Photo: Robb Cox/NRL Photos
The NRL must find a way to bring fringe players back to the game. Photo: Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Ratuvakacereivalu is one of hundreds of second-tier players who are currently on the rugby league scrapheap.

He has been working eight hours a day shifting metal on a job site while training in the afternoons when he gets home.

Unlike NRL players who will resume their competition on May 28, second-tier footballers like Ratuvakacereivalu don't have any light at the end of the tunnel with the Canterbury Cup shelved for 2020.

"That is the difference - we have no idea what is going on," he said.

"We have been told to keep fit because you never know what could happen.

"It has been pretty hectic, especially when there isn't much information going around. It is a bit confusing, but it is what it is, I guess.

"I have no idea what is going on, but you just have to be ready for when you get the call. It helps knowing that I'm not the only player in this situation.

"The club has also helped a lot. They have set us up with jobkeeper payments. It helps knowing that the club is still looking after us. It helps because some of the boys have lost their jobs through the shutdown."

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Times have been tough for Ratuvakacereivalu with his league career on hold, but he is trying to keep his life in perspective.

"I've had a few operations on my leg, and I was out for a year and a half, so I guess I've been through worse," he said.

"The timing sucks, but I'm trying to stay positive.

"I was so close to the NRL squad prior to the lockdown, so I'll use that as motivation. I have got to be ready for whenever an opportunity arises."

 

Originally published as Second-tier trials would be life changing


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