Written by Robert Burgin
Photo by Hull FC
It was April 24, 2015 and I’d spent the best part of two weeks throwing out my grandafther’s clothes, finalising his legal matters, finding a new home for his furniture and delivering the eulogy at his funeral.
It was the day before Anzac Day, a day we normally would have honoured specifically with Grandad in mind.
It was also my twin sisters’ birthday and they were absent, unable to afford to travel to England for the funeral.
On this particular day, I managed to escape from the whirlwind for a while and finally see Hull FC play at home at KCOM Stadium.
I’d been to Hull several times before; seen Australia, New Zealand, England and Fiji all play at the same stadium.
I’d even seen Hull FC play away before then.
But due to bad timing, bad finances and all other colluding factors, I’d never watched my favourite Super League team – a team from the same city where my grandparents were married and my late mother was born – play on home turf.
Some well-meaning friends took my mind off matters by buying tickets to the match against Huddersfield – the same city where rugby league was born.
We packed five of us into a car, drove an hour north from rural Lincolnshire, across the Humber Bridge and took up a pew on the western side of the stadium.
It was a special moment.
That was, until the referee blew time-on and Hull was trounced 4-24 in a contest they never looked like winning.
Barely a word was said amongst us. It was, for want of a better phrase, an embarrassing end to a tough week.
But what I walked way from KCOM Stadium with was new-found respect for Fetuli Talanoa, who truly seemed like the only player who wasn’t willing to accept defeat on the night.
I’d known and covered Talanoa back in Australia in his NRL days, but he’d never really captured my attention.
Some other acquaintances of mine were jostling him for a backline spot at South Sydney during his seven seasons there, so I could have even been guilty of cheering against him before that.
I was aware some wag on Facebook had started a group called ‘Fetuli Talanoa: Worst player in NRL history’.
But on April 24, 2015 he was the guy in the black-and-white who did not want to yield.
Talanoa played at centre that night. It’s hard to win a game from there, but he did his level best.
If you’ve ever strapped on a pair of boots, you know what it means to have a guy like that alongside you when everyone has seemingly given up hope, even yourself.
It’s easy to shine in a team that’s galloping to victory.
It’s much more reflective of character to stand out on a team that is copping a thumping.
So, with news that Talanoa is retiring from the sport, hanging up his Hull jersey with 59 tries in 128 appearances for my beloved club, that will be his legacy in my mind.
He’s scored tries in winning Challenge Cup teams and survived 13 years of professional competition in one of the world’s toughest sport.
But nothing will define him more in my memory than as the guy who wouldn’t throw in the towel when the chips were down.
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