When Lote Tuqiri received a text message from NSW Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson in November asking if he’d be interested in coming out of retirement for a cameo at the Brisbane Tens, the dual international was genuinely torn as to whether he should commit.
“I was interested, but I didn’t give him a firm answer,” Tuqiri said. “We conversed over Christmas and New Year’s and I finally got over the line in convincing myself. I just didn’t know whether I was confident in myself getting it done and I finally came to that realisation only a couple of weeks ago.
“You don’t want to get back on the big stage and embarrass yourself.”
Tuqiri joins Chris Latham (Queensland Reds), Stephen Larkham and Andrew Walker (ACT Brumbies) and Morgan Turinui (Melbourne Rebels) in the old brigade of former Wallabies who will dust of the boots as wildcard players for the two-day tournament at Suncorp Stadium.
The 37-year-old – whose last professional football match came in 2014 for the South Sydney Rabbitohs – will line up in the sky blue of NSW after 89 appearances for the Waratahs between 2003 and 2009.
He is very happy about the unlimited interchange rule but firstly had to convince himself he would be in good enough physical shape to compete against a string of international stars.
“When you haven’t played for a while you have a bit of fear mixing it again with the young guys,” Tuqiri said. “When you’re playing you have that supreme confidence about yourself but when you’re coming in cold … it’s a different beast.
“I don’t know what to expect to be honest. I don’t know how teams are treating this. Maybe another selection trial for the Super Rugby season?”
Tuqiri threw down the gauntlet for Latham, saying he his former Wallabies teammate would be under the most pressure of the older heads coming back as marquee players.
“I’m expecting big things from Chris Latham actually,” Tuqiri said. “He has kept on top of his fitness and is looking quite fit. If there’s anyone that should have expectation on them of the older blokes, it’s Chris Latham and I’m sure he won’t disappoint.
“I’m obviously not as fast as I once was but I’ve still got the long legs. Off the field I’ll mix with the old crew and share war stories and everything else. I’m in there to enjoy myself and put a relaxing spin on the place.”
Gibson said Tuqiri’s inclusion would be beneficial for the younger members of the squad who will be in line to wear a NSW jersey for the first time.
“Lote brings loads of experience to the Waratahs playing group and it will be a good chance for our younger guys to take the field with someone who has played rugby at all levels,” Gibson said.
“Having the opportunity to learn from a playmaker like Lote will provide an added boost for the boys and a different type of preparation.”
The Waratahs squad is headlined by Israel Folau and will include three other players who featured for the Wallabies in 2016 in Tom Robertson, Tolu Latu and Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Fellow Wallabies Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Rob Horne, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Dean Mumm and Will Skelton have been rested for the inaugural two-day tournament that starts on February 11.
n Olympic sevens representatives Cam Clark, Pat McCutcheon and Con Foley have also been named in the 26-man squad.
Waratahs squad for the Brisbane Global Rugby Tens:
Israel Folau, Tolu Latu, Tom Robertson, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Paddy Ryan, Hugh Roach, Damien Fitzpatrick, Ned Hanigan, Ryan McCauley, Michael Wells, Rory O’Connor, Patrick McCutcheon, Brad Wilkin, Jamason Schultz, Matt Lucas, Jake Gordon, Mack Mason, Bryce Hegarty, David Horwitz, Andrew Deegan, Con Foley, Andrew Kellaway, Cam Clark, Harry Jones, Reece Robinson, Lote Tuqiri. Stunning sporting comebacks
Lote Tuqiri has announced that he will join the likes of Andrew Walker and Stephen Larkham in coming out of retirement to contest the Brisbane 10s. But he is not the first professional athlete to make a stunning comeback or attempt a bizarre code switch.
Andrew Johns Johns attempted to make the switch to cricket in 2006/07 when he represented New South Wales in the Twenty20 Big Bash, a precursor to the current Big Bash League. It was largely a flop, with Johns finishing with nine runs across his two matches, but he has still played two more Twenty20 matches for NSW than Michael Clarke ever did.
Auckland Nines Retired rugby league stars coming out of retirement to contest the Auckland Nines has become an annual tradition. In the first year it was Steve Menzies and Brad Fittler, last year it was Jason Croker and this year it will be Ruben Wiki who takes to the field in the shortened form of the game.
Pat Rafter Rafter made a shock comeback to Grand Slam tennis when he partnered with Lleyton Hewitt in doubles at the 2014 n Open. It was nine years after his last professional doubles match and the comeback was shortlived. The pair went down 6-4, 7-5 in their first round match and Rafter has made no more attempts at a comeback.
Michael Jordan The greatest basketballer on earth shocked the world when he announced he was leaving the sport to try his hand at baseball. While conspiracy theories swirl over why he made the switch, his baseball journey was shortlived and he returned to basketball after just one season in the Minor Leagues.
n swimmers Numerous n swimmers have attempted comebacks in recent years, with some more successful than others. Geoff Huegill and Grant Hackett both returned to the national team after long absences from the sport, although both had their Olympics dreams dashed. Ian Thorpe was another to attempt a comeback, but like the other two, he also failed to qualify for the Olympics and the comeback was aborted shortly after.
At the ripe old age of 53, reports emerged that Diego Maradona would be making a comeback with fifth-tier Argentinian side Deportivo Riestra in 2014. Unfortunately Maradona did not make his much hyped return, instead continuing in his existing role as a spiritual coach at the club.