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 Wests Tigers
Next Game: The Season has finished
The 12 minutes and 35 seconds driving Wests Tigers prop and State of Origin hopeful Stefano Utoikamanu
5 Apr 2024
Stefano Utoikamanu's State of Origin debut didn't go according to plan but his brief appearance in sky blue is what's helping drive his explosive start to the season with Wests Tigers.

There are 12 minutes and 35 seconds that are driving Wests Tigers enforcer Stefano Utoikamanu.

It came last year, in his State of Origin debut for New South Wales. Utoikamanu, a player long tipped to one day make his mark for his state, was a surprise selection for the Blues' trip to Lang Park in game two as they fought against the odds to keep the series alive.

It was already 10-0 to Queensland when he came on five minutes before halftime. It was 16-0 when he came off seven minutes after the break and that was it. That was all the time he had in his maiden voyage in sky blue.

A lifetime of waiting and work and it was over in a little more time than it takes to listen to Bohemian Rhapsody twice, a footnote in a 32-6 Queensland romp.

Utoikamanu wasn't retained for game three and wasn't named in new Blues coach Michael Maguire's 36-man train-on squad over the summer but after his excellent start to the season at the Tigers, he's every chance of adding plenty more time to that 12 minutes and 35 seconds.

"He [Maguire] gave me a call back when I didn't get picked in that 30 or 40 or whatever. It was a bit disappointing at the time, but I understood where he was coming from. I just want to show him that I'm ready for it and I have to be in that team," Utoikamanu said.

"I also had a meeting with him last week just to bring me on what the whole Blues thing is going to be about because there's new coaches and new people in there.

"I definitely want to be in the Origin team this year. I want to see our club be at the top where it should be. Anything I can do to do that, I'm going to be there."

Origin is still some months away but Utoikamanu's put his best foot forward thus far as he's led from the front for the Tigers in recent weeks, including in their epic win over Parramatta on Easter Monday.

The 23-year-old is playing some of the best football of his career – he's averaging 130 metres gained per match and has 15 tackle busts through three games, which is a third of what he had all of last season.

The athletic front-rower is also using his experience to great effect both on the field, where he's made an effort to lift the tempo whenever he comes back onto the field for his second stint, and off it, where he's trying to use his experience to emerge as a leader for Benji Marshall's new-look side.

"Have a look at the players around, I've got Api [Koroisau] helping me out, got Benji, I think the whole coaching staff has helped me become a better player too," Utoikamanu said.

"I was a bit disappointed in our first loss against Canberra. I felt like we didn't go out there and do what we normally do at training. I felt these last two weeks, we've owned everyone's roles.

"Me as a bit of a leader in this team now, I like to lead on the field by my actions.

"I've had a taste of Origin footy and there's a lot of boys in our team that are very good young players. I just want to show them that you just gotta go out there and earn it.

"Every week you've got to earn it. Every week you've got to turn up."

Adding to that 12 minutes and 35 seconds is at the back of Utoikamanu's mind but he understands any chance of that begins with the Tigers.

There's plenty of players whose first shot at Origin doubled as their last and with Utoikamanu desperate to get a second chance at a first impression in sky blue, he knows a strong Tigers season as a team will help him get there.

"As much as I want to be the best player I can, I need to do everything I can to put our team in the best position to win. I think when you're winning it's easier to get picked in those kind of teams," Utoikamanau said.

"It's hard to come into Origin footy when your team's not going the best. In Origin footy you've got to be ready. I felt like physically I was ready for it, but mentally I wasn't."

The mental side of the game is the final frontier for Utoikamanu. He's been an imposing physical specimen his whole life in the sport and work ethic has never been an issue either – until recently, he always made a point of training on Christmas Day, just to try to find an edge.

But all that hard work can only take a player, even one as talented as Utoikamanu, so far and to him that's what's helped the Tigers to their surprise start to the year, which they're hoping to continue on Saturday night against the Dolphins.

"This game's massive mentally. It takes a massive mental toll on you. Everyone's pretty similar physically. You can only lift as many weights as you can," Utoikamanu said.

"But I think the mental side of the game is the biggest thing everyone's got to improve on.

"It's been massive for us this year, a lot of boys are mentally improving, especially myself. It helps you gain confidence every week."

[sports newsletter]

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Last Game: The Wests Tigers lost against the Brisbane Broncos 6 - 38 at Leichhardt Oval, Australia (7660 days ago)  game results here
 Wests Tigers Season 0 Stats (All games)
 Total Games Played 26 
 Away Games 26 
    Away Wins 9 
 Home Games
    Home Wins
 Total Tries: 43 
 Total Goals: 29 
 Total Field Goals:
 Total Points For: 474 
 Total Points Against: 746 
 Leagues the Wests Tigers are in
2000 NRL Season, 2001 NRL Pre-Season, 2001 NRL Season, 2002 NRL Season, 2003 NRL Season,

 Players in 2002
Ahmad Bajouri, Ben Galea, Ben Jefferies, Chris Paterson, Corey Pearson, Darren Senter, Hassan Saleh, Joel Caine, John Skandalis, John Wilson, Kevin McGuinness, Lincoln Withers, Luke O'Donnell, Mark O'Neill, Robert Mears, Stephen Trindall, Terry Hill, Troy Wozniak, Willie Manu,

 Players in 2001
Anthony Laffranchi, Ben Black, Ciriaco Mescia, Craig Field, Jackson Kafusi, Jason Lowrie, John Carlaw, John Hopoate, John Simon, Lee Murphy, Lipina Kaufusi, Luke Isakka, Lupina Kaufusi, Mark O hallaran, Mark O'halloran, Matt Seers, Nick Bradley-qalilawa, Owen Craigie, Shane Walker, Steve Crouch, Steven Crouch, Trent Robinson, Trent Runciman, Tyran Smith, Warren Carney,

 Players in 2000
Cherry Mescia, Jason Lowrie, Ken McGuinness, Steve Georgallis,
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Last Results

Sunday, 4 May, 2003
Brisbane 38
Wests Tigers 6


Saturday, 26 Apr, 2003
Newcastle 34
Wests Tigers 6


Saturday, 19 Apr, 2003
Parramatta 28
Wests Tigers 8


Saturday, 12 Apr, 2003
South Sydney 32
Wests Tigers 22


Sunday, 6 Apr, 2003
Wests Tigers 38
Eagles 12


Saturday, 29 Mar, 2003
Canterbury 38
Wests Tigers 6


Saturday, 22 Mar, 2003
Canberra 15
Wests Tigers 8


Saturday, 15 Mar, 2003
Wests Tigers 24
St George 20


Saturday, 7 Sep, 2002
Warriors 28
Wests Tigers 12


Saturday, 31 Aug, 2002
Parramatta 36
Wests Tigers 24


2003 NRL LADDER
Round 10
May 17th - 18th
Pos  Team Name  P
 1   Canberra   16 
 2   Brisbane   14 
 3   Warriors   14 
 4   Sydney City   12 
 5   Melbourne   12 
 6   Newcastle   12 
 7   Penrith   12 
 8   Canterbury   10 
 9   St George   10 
 10   Eagles   8 
 11   Cowboys   8 
 12   Sharks   6 
 13   Wests Tigers   6 
 14   Parramatta   4 
 15   South Sydney   2 
click for full table


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