Slammin' Sam's year in review
Big, strong and a devastating runner of the football, his worth was never more evident that when Coach Shane Flanagan decided he needed Tagataese in his Grand Final 17 despite a disrupted back end to his 2016 season.
A shoulder fracture and subsequent surgery suffered in round 22, saw Tagataese miss the final four rounds of the year, along with the Sharks two finals matches.
Working hard to regain fitness as well as strength in the injured shoulder, Tagataese was passed fit to play but doubts surrounded his effectiveness after such a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Flanagan took the punt, realising he required the impact Tagataese provides and selected him in his Grand Final squad.
In limited minutes Tagataese did his job, kept the Sharks on the front foot during his stint on the field and played his part in his teams’ premiership victory.
Considering the depth of talent at the disposal of Coach Shane Flanagan in 2016, all 25-plus members of the extended squad would have been on notice to perform or miss out on a regular place in the Sharks 17-man NRL team on a weekly basis.
Whether he was thinking along these lines or not, Tagataese put a case forward even before a ball had been kicked in the NRL competition proper.
In the trial against Manly, held at Southern Cross Group Stadium back in February, Tagataese was devastating, scoring a try and creating another through his pure brute strength and power.
The coach would have noticed his performance and realised he needed the big prop somewhere in his team if the Sharks were to mount a premiership challenge.
As good as he runs the football, often leaving multiple defenders in his wake, some of Tagataese’s more memorable highlights come when he collides with unsuspecting opposition ball carriers.
A case in point came with his hit on Dragons forward Jack De Belin in the final minutes of the Sharks local derby clash in round two.
With the result decided in the Sharks favour and the clock winding down Tagataese had one more statement to make, lining DeBelin up and smashing him with a perfectly timed tackle, one which rocked the young St George forward and earned a tackle of the year nomination at the Sharks annual awards night.
It was a reminder to opponents to keep a careful eye on where Tagataese might be in the defensive line.
Year in Review: Sam Tagataese*
Games played 2016 - 21
Average tackles: 13
Average run metres: 72.5
Tackle breaks: 22
Statistics courtesy Big League Magazine and FoxSports.com.au