Tautai's top tips... from his mum
Man-mountain Taulima Tautai has been receiving special coaching instructions to help prepare him for the Grand Final... from his mum.
“She’s always done it,” he smiled. “She’s been sending me messages to motivate me - real simple things like, ‘catch, run hard, tackle hard’, and that’s pretty much my job!”
Most players will talk about their parents’ support and sacrifices in helping them during their formative years.
And speak to Tautai, and it is obvious the gratitude runs deep.
“My mum and dad went from Samoa to Australia and they had nothing,” he said. “I mean, they went on honeymoon and never left - they had literally nothing.
“They had me and my brother and sister, one year apart, and they made a lot of sacrifices for us.
“Growing up, I remember going house to house for a few years. We had a big extended family so I grew up with a lot of cousins.
“I grew up wearing their hand-me-downs - I didn’t even know people bought their own clothes. It’s the style these days to have old clothes - I’d have killed it back then!
“Now, my mum had a masters degree and she’s well-educated - dad drives a truck - but I still remember the sacrifices they made, the days off to take me to carnivals, the fees they paid, the petrol... so for me to win, it would be a huge thank you to them.”
And not just them.
When Tautai’s NRL career with Parramatta turned sour, he was on the brink of quitting the game when he was thrown a lifeline by Wakefield.
“If it wasn’t for my wife Anj... she’s close to her family, and for her to pack up on a hunch I may make it here, so I can do what I want to do, is massive,” said the proud dad of two children, Zara and Ziggy (“he was born here, so he has a proper Wigan accent”).
“So playing at a Grand Final now, it’s as much for her, my mum and dad, and all the people who have supported me.”
This is Tautai’s first final of his senior career, though he got a dress-rehearsal of what to expect last year when he warmed up on the pitch as 18th man.
The Manchester United fan was back at Old Trafford with the rest of the squad on Monday.
“We went into the dressing rooms, and I even tried on (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic’s shirt... it was as ‘tiny as’,” he smiled.
The 28-year-old has certainly played his part in helping Wigan to Old Trafford.
Wane labelled him as arguably their most improved player this season, cutting out the errors which blighted his game and providing his side with a lift from the bench.
“And he does things off-the-ball which make us look good,” said Wane. “He’s been outstanding. He’s very harsh on himself, and I like that... it tells me he has a lot of desire to improve and win things.”
Tautai, modestly, deflects praise and says the other players are all making whole-hearted contributions.
“We’re such a tightknit group, so when it comes to the wire, we’ve sneaked through a few time because people are really working extra for each other,” he said.
“And that’s what we believe will win us the Grand Final.”