Tomiki eyes return
COUNTRY rugby is nothing new to Queensland Reds player Lei Tomiki and that was why he loved sitting with supporters at Rugby Park on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Tomiki was to have a part of a double-billing of Reds players but a return to training this week had taken its toll on giant former Wallabies prop Guy Shepherdson who stayed home to nurse an injury.
Not that Tomiki was in great condition himself as he had a knee bandage to support an injury he received in early pre-season training.
Injury has limited Tomiki's appearances for the Reds as he enters his second season but he is happy with the way things are progressing at the Super 15 franchise.
“It is a young squad and hungry for success,” he said.
Reds coach Ewen McKenzie has turned things around in a short time and Tomiki believes the team can do even better in the coming season.
However, the Tongan-born, Sydney-raised Tomiki said the Reds are doing it without having the big names many of the other teams in the competition boast.
“We didn't have many of the big stars,” he said. “We just go out to do well for each other; it's a bunch of mates playing for each other.”
Tomiki plays at number seven for the Reds and is recognised as one of the players who gets quickly to the breakdown and scavenges the ball from the opposition.
However, even though an experienced player, like so many of the squad he has no guarantees of a starting position even if he is able to get himself injury-free for the season start after managing just one appearance, through injury, last term.
“There are three of us after the one spot,” he said.
“We have a lot of depth in the team and have signed a lot of young guys who are future Wallabies in years to come.”
After a short spell at the Waratahs between 2003-4, Tomiki spent five years playing his rugby in France. While he enjoyed the experience he said it was a lot different on the European circuit compared to the Southern Hemisphere.
“It could be cold playing in the snow,” he grinned.
“The rugby in France was very “forwards orientated” and “very rough and dirty.”
During his stay he had spells with two clubs and played over 80 matches in the French top 14, the European Challenge and Heinekin Cup competitions.
However, despite that, he never had the opportunity to lock horns with the big name signing from Australian rugby league. “Sonny Bill Williams didn't play against us and Mark Gasnier got injured after three minutes,” he said.
At 27 years of age Tomiki admits he might not have many years left at the top level of the game. “I'm just going with the flow,” he declared.
However, he is prepared for the day when his body says enough is enough as he has nearly completed his studies and intends to become an architect.