Home is where the games are for prop Sam Talakai
QUEENSLAND Reds tighthead prop Sam Talakai made plenty of sacrifices relocating to Brisbane for this season, including leaving his family behind in Sydney.
But he is happy he made the move as it will give him his best shot of achieving his dream of playing Super Rugby.
That could happen as early as tomorrow night in his team's season-opener against the ACT Brumbies in Canberra, after his solid pre-season trial form impressed coaching staff at Ballymore.
It has been a case of so far so good for the former member of the Waratahs' wider training squad, after impressing Reds forwards coach Nick Stiles while playing for Brisbane City in the National Rugby Championship.
"I took a punt to come up north and give it a red-hot crack," Talakai said.
"A big thing for me is just being able to work hard and contribute around the place, and add to the culture the Reds have.
"They've got a proud history and I just wanted to add to that.
"At the moment I'm travelling all right, but it's only the start of the season."
After learning from international forwards including Wallaby prop Sekope Kepu and Paddy Ryan while at the Tahs, Talakai said he was ready to take on the Brumbies' formidable pack, which includes Australian representatives Stephen Moore, Scott Sio and Ben Alexander.
"We're really excited to go down to Canberra. It's going to be a very physical encounter," the stocky 23-year-old said.
"They've got a pretty good pack - an all-Wallaby front row."
Talakai played rugby league in his junior days and was a target of NRL club the Sydney Roosters.
With that background, he brings an impressive ball-playing game to Queensland - particularly for a tighthead prop.
"I guess it's just something different I bring to the table," Talakai said.
"Slips (Reds captain James Slipper) has got a lot of ball skills himself, so I'm just following the skipper, I guess.
"Especially in the southern hemisphere, a lot of the tight five now can really use the ball.
"I think New Zealand typifies that, and I think that's the way forward for Australian rugby."
The Brumbies will be captained by openside flanker and former Wallabies skipper David Pocock, back from his second knee reconstruction in as many years.
Moore, the team's regular skipper, will return via the bench after recovering from his own knee reconstruction.