‘Just staying up’ no longer good enough for Wakefield Trinity says Tinirau Arona
The Cook Island forward is in his fifth season at Belle Vue and is firing fit again having spent the majority of last campaign sidelined by an ACL injury.
The 30-year-old, who was born in New Zealand, made his professional debut in the NRL with Sydney Roosters before joining Cronulla Sharks in 2014.
Arona left the Sharks in 2015, signing a deal at Wakefield, who were then coached by Brian Smith, who Arona had worked under at Sydney.
The 30-year-old signed his deal at Belle Vue a month after Trinity had beaten Bradford Bulls in the Million Pound match to avoid relegation to the Championship.
But after finishing fifth in 2017 and 2018, Arona feels that supporters now want to be looking to the top end of the table rather than the bottom of it.
“When I got here they had just won that Million Pound Game and I didn’t know what to expect,” he said.
“I learned pretty quickly that we were known as the underdogs and always meant to finish in the bottom four and play those middle eight games.
“It was a challenge for myself to help change the perspective. I know that from when I first came, we finished eighth that first season, in 2016.
“Then we finished fifth two years in a row and last year with all the injuries we fell short.
“When fans are upset that we are losing, because they are used to us winning, then that is a positive for me.
“We didn’t have that perspective when I first came. I know we have got a lot more work to do.
“I want to be here when we lift a trophy and be part of the journey we have been on.”
Moving from Australia to England was not a decision taken lightly and Arona added: “My first coach in the NRL at Sydney Roosters was Brian Smith and he was the head coach here at the time. That helped make my decision a lot easier.”
The suspension of Super League due to the outbreak of the covid-19 coronavirus was particularly tough to take for Arona. He had only played two games – a golden point defeat to Hull FC and a Challenge Cup victory over Bradford Bulls – after returning from a 10-month spell on the sidelines due to an ACL injury.
“ I worked really hard to get back. I got a taste of it again, I played two games and then it got taken away from me again,” said Arona, who is treating the enforced break like another off-season.
“It was a bit of roller-coaster ride but it is just part of the game. I enjoyed the two games I played.
“I got a fair bit of minutes in both games. I just need to keep my head down and keep working hard for when the season gets back running.
“It is kind of frustrating but it means I get to freshen up again with an off-season that I didn’t get.”
Like all Super League players, Arona is keeping on top of his fitness in isolation.
He added: “We picked up a few bits of equipment from the gym at Belle Vue so I have just set up my own little workout gym in my backyard. I am just trying to stay on top of the strength and conditioning side of things.
“It is a bit of a freshen up for me. The club has given us some guidelines and programmes are available for all us players.
“I like to keep to it fresh and do things I don’t usually do throughout the rugby season.”
Arona made his international debut when he was 17-years-old and has his eye on the 2021 World Cup.
The Cook Islands have been drawn in a pool with Tonga, Papa New Guinea and Wales for the tournament which is set to be staged in England next autumn.
“My Cook Island heritage is something that I hold close to me, it is something I am proud of,” said the forward who was born in New Zealand before moving to Australia with his family as an 11-year-old.
“I think the Cook Island rugby league culture is growing.
“We played in the 2013 World Cup over here and I know the World Cup is here next year, if I get the call I will put my hand up.
“There are some good quality players there and some good competition but I will make myself available.”
Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.
Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.
And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.
Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected]. Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.
If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.
Sincerely. Thank you.