Imagine starting pre-season with your local A-Grade Club when the phone rings and a voice says he’s the head coach of the Newcastle Knights and wants to give you a chance to secure an NRL contract.
Just picture it. What would you do?
It was 2007 when Mark Taufua received that very call from former Knights coach Brian Smith.
His younger brother Larry Taufua was in the 20s system and had convinced Smith to have a look at the former rugby gun.
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Smith was in need of some mature talent and started asking around for the names of players who might’ve slipped through the cracks.
Mark had played high-level rugby but had switched back to league and was gearing up for a season of park league.
That’s when Larry tossed his name up and on little more than the recommendation of Larry, the coach picked up the phone.
What was Mark’s reaction? He hung up the phone.
“My brother and I were playing X-Box at his house and I get this phone call from a number I wasn’t familiar with,” Taufua told the Our Town Our Team podcast.
“I answered the phone and it was Brian Smith. I said, ‘Hello’, and he goes, ‘Hello, this is Brian Smith, I was wondering if you wanted to come and get a train and trial contract’.
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“I said; ‘Yeah good one mate’, and I just hung up'.
“My brother asked, ‘Who was that?’, and I said; ‘It was just one of the boys just playing around saying they’re Brian Smith’.
“Then my brother told me, ‘No, I gave him your number to give you a call’.
“I was then caught in between if I should call him back or if I should wait for him to ring me back.”
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Fortunately, after Smith called back, Taufua agreed to sign an incentive-based contract.
"I was so embarrassed," he said.
"Thank god he gave me a call back."
It was a deal done on a gut feeling.
The former Newcastle and NSW country rugby union representative forward made his first-grade debut a few months later at the age of 25.
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It goes to show, anything is possible.
In his rookie year he only managed three game due to a broken arm which prematurely ended his season but he’d impressed enough to secure another contract.
“My wrist got shattered. One of my teammates went for a shoulder charge and I went for a tackle up top and he shouldered charged my wrist,” Taufua said.
“I had a reconstruction on my wrist, so I was out for a while after that.”
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After five seasons with the Knights, Taufua signed on with Cronulla in for the 2012 season.
He inked a two-year-deal and that’s where he finished his professional career.
Taufua called time in 2013 with 88 top grade games to his name.
He claimed a NSW Cup premiership to his in his swansong season at the Sharks and played six Tests for Samoa.