“I went home and had a good look at myself”: What sparked honesty session at Panthers

Penrith winger Sunia Turuva. Photo: Melinda Jane.
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Sunia Turuva won the NRL’s Rookie of the Year award in 2023 following a sensational debut season for the Panthers, however the 21-year-old has admitted he’s not playing to the same standard so far this year.

Despite scoring a team-high 11 tries this season, the popular winger believes there’s a few aspects of his game that is currently letting both he and the team down.

“It’s a bit of everything,” Turuva admitted to the Weekender on Tuesday.

“I know for myself, I’m not where I want to be. Just going off the back of last year, I think, individually, I know I have to step up.

“Whatever it may be – catching kicks, making my reads, tackling – I have to be on my A-game come this week and moving forward.”

Sunia Turuva chatting with the Weekender’s Nathan Taylor. Photo: Melinda Jane.

One of Turuva’s most glaring games this year was in Round 14 against Manly when Penrith’s right edge, which included centre Izack Tago, allowed Sea Eagles winger Tommy Talau to run in four consecutive tries.

“Oh my gosh… that first half was a shambles,” Turuva said.

“I went home and had a good look at myself – far out!

“It was tough in that first half, but come the second half, we did stop a few tries and that gave us confidence.”

Turuva said he and his right edge teammates had a much-needed honesty session following the 32-22 win.

“We knew after that we had to fix it,” he said.

Sunia Turuva and Izack Tago. Photo: NRL Photos.

“We regrouped after. We had a real, honest video session. Myself, Tages, the right edge with coach Wal (Peter Wallace) and Iv (Ivan Cleary).

“That’s all we could do, to be honest. There was no point in dwelling on it.”

With Turuva exiting the Panthers at the end of the year, bound for the Wests Tigers, the Berala Bears junior is eager to turn his form around so he can finish the season on a high and possibly win another premiership.

Turuva said he’s happy the ‘contract chapter’ of his life is over for the next few years as it certainly took its toll on his mental health.

“That period was the worst thing ever,” he said.

“I remember getting in front of the boys and telling them, telling coach as well. I just wanted it to be over, to be honest.

“It can be really stressful and frustrating at the same time but, once I told the boys, everyone just showed love and I’m glad the boys and coaching staff were fine with it.”

Sunia Turuva. Photo: Melinda Jane.

When asked how Panthers fans took the news of his impending move to the Wests Tigers, Turuva said more than a few have tried to convince him to stay.

“Some fans do ask that, but some show love as well,” he said.

“I know for myself, I’m trying to end this year on a high and there’s no fans like the Panthers fans.”

Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the Weekender's Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.

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