Newtown Jets officials, sad to see the departure of Arana Taumata from their NSW Cup team, say the Tumut Blues have snared a brilliant pivot as captain-coach for 2015.
Taumata this week inked a deal with the Blues which contracts him to coach the Group 9 club for the next two years.
He played with the Jets last season, having returned to league after a year’s break, which followed a rocky seven-year NRL career in which he played for seven different clubs.
Long-serving Newtown official Glen Dwyer said Tumut had landed an exceptionally talented rugby league player.
Taumata played at halfback, five-eighth and fullback in 2014 and was Newtown’s leading pointscorer.
“His speed, elusiveness and skills should make him a formidable proposition for Group Nine defenders,” Dwyer said.
“Arana was great for us and his on-field performances only stepped up a level when he was partnered in the halves from mid-season onwards by Scott Dureau from the Catalan Dragons in the European Super League.”
Taumata, Dureau and Cronulla fullback Nathan Stapleton were credited with driving Newtown’s late-season charge towards the NSW Cup finals, which ultimately failed, after the team had started the season slowly.
As for Taumata’s ability to make a go of being a captain-coach, Dwyer said he believes Taumata can make the shift from player to mentor.
“He is only 25 and has been under the influence of a variety of top-level NRL coaches in his career,” Dwyer said.
“He struck me as being the sort of fellow who has the intelligence, capacity and drive to learn from his NRL playing experiences and be able to adapt to the pressures of coaching and team leadership in Group Nine.”
Newtown was aware of Taumata’s bumpy past in the NRL, but said there was not a hint of trouble from the talented play-maker.
“There were no behavior issues or breaches whatsoever with Arana in his 2014 season,” Dwyer said.
“His training record and his application to game preparation were impeccable.
“He used to travel three days a week from his home on the northern Central Coast for training sessions at Newtown’s home ground and gymnasium in Marrickville.
“I understand that he undertook extra training one evening a week with a Central Coast club to do additional weights work or intensive sprint sessions.”
Meanwhile, further details have emerged about the Blues’ first player signing for 2014.
Ethan McGuire, a 100-kilogram centre from Auckland, will make the move to Tumut next season to bolster the backline.
Last season he played for the Hibiscus Coast Raiders in the Auckland Rugby League’s Phelan Shield, which is a couple of steps down from the Bartercard Cup.
He was named best back by his club and was a finalist in the competition’s player of the year award.
It was McGuire’s first season of league, having previously played rugby union, where, as a junior, he was selected in various representative teams.
“Last season I decided to switch to league and have not looked back ever since,” McGuire said.
“League suits my personal style of play; it gives me more opportunity to express myself in attack, and allows me to show my defensive qualities.”
Paul Mant, who was McGuire’s rugby union coach between 2010 and 2013, said McGuire was a strong tackler technically who enjoyed the physicality of defence, while in attack, he had the ability to make his opponents stand still through footwork, and then had the strength to power through contact.
“He should have been playing professional rugby union by now,” Mant said.
“How he has slipped under the radar is beyond me. I’ve coached numerous players who have played professionally that are half the player Ethan is.
“He’s a quiet, hard-working guy, who’s never relied just on his talent, but has applied a work-ethic.”