How Taniela Tupou nearly walked away from Rugby during brutal rehab process

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Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou has revealed how he nearly walked away from the game during his extensive rehab process.

Tupou is in line to complete his return from an Achilles injury during Saturday’s first Bledisloe Test against the All Blacks at the MCG.

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However, the road to return for the damaging prop has been far from easy, opening up on it in an open and wide-ranging chat with reporters.

Tupou ruptured his Achilles during November’s 13-10 defeat to Ireland in an innocuous incident, carrying the ball and collapsing in a heap.

It came just six months after a long-term calf injury disrupted his 2022 campaign.

The 27-year-old was left in a state of uncertainty.

He was out of contract, dealing with his dream of a second World Cup potentially over, and a near year-long recovery timeline.

With Achilles injuries, much is made about the physical return to injury. Players go through milestones such as the return to walking and running and then they start getting into the game-specific drills such as scrummaging.

For Tupou, it was the mental side of his process that weighed heavily.

“It has been tough the last eight to nine months to do all the rehab alone. Looking back on it, it wasn’t easy. There was a time when I really thought about my future in footy,” Tupou revealed.

“It was just mentally hard. I was asking for help and I was speaking to a few people, I needed that. But I’m we’re here now and I couldn’t be any happier, just be around people again and the boys and now it’s fine.”

Tupou can do it all on the field; a generational athlete that defies physics with his pace and ball skills for a 135kg prop.

However, the mental anvil burdening the jovial front-rower forced him to learn a new skill: speaking up.

It led to Tupou reaching out to the Wallabies psychologists and before he knew it, there was an army of players, coaches and experts reaching out to make sure he was ok every step of the journey.

“Before I was one of those guys where speaking up was not an option,” he explained

“So to find out you are not weak for speaking up, I had to learn the new skill of speaking up when I needed to.

“…I didn’t know who to talk to but we’re lucky enough to have the psychologists for the Wallabies so I reach out to him and he makes everything easy for me and I’m very comfortable talking to him.

“I ended up talking to a few other people comfortably enough to speak to the boys. Before I knew not there were a lot of the boys speaking up on me because we have a lot of people here that care about me and that’s why I’m so grateful now.

“When I did my Achilles last year, I thought the worst. Also the last year of my contract, I thought I was going to miss World Cup. I was in a very dark place but hey we’re here now.”

It transformed Tupou’s perception of his recovery and he could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What he probably didn’t envision was a detour to his country of birth following the confirmation of an Australia A tour of Tonga.

The game coincided with the 50th anniversary of Tonga beating Australia at Ballymore and presented a ‘full-circle’ moment for ‘The Tongan Thor’, badgering coach Eddie Jones to play.

Tupou’s voice almost quivers when speaking about what it meant to play in his country of birth. It’s tough to tell how much of it that is still remnants of the flu he picked up over there but what is clear is what the opportunity meant to him.

“These games never happen in Tonga. You see these games happen in Fiji or Samoa but you’ve never heard of a game in Tonga,” Tupou said.

“For someone like myself growing up in Tonga and playing in that stadium when I was at school, to have that opportunity to perform and play in front of my family in that stadium, it’s a full circle to where everything started for me.

“It was by far the highlight of my career.

“I get a bit emotional talking about it because it means so much to me.”

After all the support he received during his process, Tupou is itching to repay it on the field.

He has spoken in the past about feeling like he has not lived up to his Wallabies potential but Tupou has a new-found motivation after the journey he has been through.

“I’m known for being very loud and trying to be the funny joker in the team but no one sees you when you go through the dark moment,” Tupou added.

“If I ever get the chance to play again, I want to put a performance together that those guys are proud of and I’m proud of.

“I didn’t just get here on my own, there’s a lot of people that got me here so I want to thank them for getting me here with a performance they’d be proud of.”

Credit To Onwer