He's back: one step at a time

LAST year started — like one of his trademarks charges — with a bang for Kelepi Tanginoa.

The Cabramatta junior made his NRL debut in round two, he was elevated to the starting team in round four and was selected in the NSW under 20s team by round six.

There was no sign of the 20-year-old slowing down. Then came injury number one: a fractured left hand.

Nine games into his first NRL season and the Rhino was sidelined for eight weeks. At the time it was almost a blessing in disguise to rest his body after a tough opening to the season where he graduated from Holden Cup prodigy to an 80-minute man NRL second-rower.

It meant he could get his body right for the back end of the season.

But then came injury number two.

In a cruel game of Twister, it went left hand in cast, to right foot in moon boot.

A stress fracture in his foot meant Tanginoa's season was over.

It was a double blow for the former Westfields Sports High student.

Not only did he have to sit idly in the stands while the Eels struggled on the field, he also missed his chance to represent Tonga at the World Cup.

"I won't lie it was pretty hard to sit on the sideline for five months but it's something everyone has to go through at some stage," he said.

"I spent three months in a moon boot so it meant I had to skip the World Cup to focus on my rehab and getting the strength back in my right leg."

The concept of training hard is not foreign to Tanginoa. The NRL media guide points out that Tanginoa is often the first to get to training and the last to leave.

It's why after almost nine months out of the game and with little trial form under his belt, coach Brad Arthur was still able to pick him for the opening round.

It's the first step on the road to reaching his goal in 2014: to play good and consistent NRL footy. A goal he is hoping to share with brother Saia, who is playing for Wentworthville in the Ron Massey Cup.

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