Fassifern's Mahe Paseka takes on the Norths' defence during Ipswich Rugby League fixtures last season.
Fassifern's Mahe Paseka takes on the Norths' defence during Ipswich Rugby League fixtures last season. Claudia Baxter

Swift Tongan connection

ALBERT Talipeau is a fierce competitor, as both a rugby league player and coach.

Yet the former NRL player, now Swifts player-coach, knows some things mean more than gaining an edge on your rivals.

Swifts were on the verge this week of announcing the signing of Fassifern grand final forwards Peteli Funaki and Mahe Paseka.

The Tongan duo was recruited to the Ipswich Rugby League by Swifts forward Charlie Tonga this year, along with several of their countrymen.

While most joined Swifts, including Paseka's younger brother Moti, Mahe and Funaki joined the Bombers and made a huge impression in the Bombers' run to the grand final.

Mahe, in particular, stamped himself as one of the most promising forwards in the game.

But it was no surprise the pair wanted to join their fellow Tongans at Swifts.

However, on a recent trip with them to their native Tonga, Talipeau saw things that made him persuade Mahe to remain at Fassifern.

Talipeau went to Tonga to meet the parents of Swifts' Tongan players and put on an exhibition match.

Joining them were Fassifern committee members Stuart and Tracey Neuendorff.

The Neuendorffs have put Mahe up in Kalbar while he's played for the Bombers and when Talipeau saw the bond they had formed, he felt it would be wrong to break it up.

"I told him 'they've put a shelter over your head, they've done a lot for you'," Talipeau said. "They go out of their way to look after him.

"You've got to put some things ahead of football. They call him their son now."

Talipeau is happy enough to have the services of front rower Funaki.

"He's pretty strong," Talipeau said. "He'll take the place of Charlie (who has retired)."

Also retired is former Swifts captain Robbie Hill.

While most of last year's Tongans will return to Swifts, the club will not recruit any more players from the Pacific nation. After the club struggled to field an under-18 team last year, Talipeau and outgoing Swifts president Darren Boettcher thought it better to put their resources into developing the club's juniors.

"It was a bit disappointing from an Ipswich perspective to have to bring overseas players in to make a team up," Talipeau said.

Swifts start pre-season training on November 22 at Llewellyn Motors Field with new strength and conditioning coach, boxing trainer Leu Vaotuua, to put them through their paces.



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