Honeti Steals The Show
It's not often a winger wins Man of the Match in any game, let alone a grand final, but that's exactly what Newcastle's Honeti Tuha achieved following his hattrick heroics in the Knights' 20-10 win over Wyong in the VB NSW Cup decider on Sunday.
Tuha, along with centre partner Kerrod Holland, dominated proceedings against the Roos, combining for all four of the Knights tries.
With his hattrick pushing him ahead of Holland as the team's leading try scorer for the season, with their NRL State Championship clash to come against Ipswich next weekend, the shy New Zealander couldn't believe the media types lining up for a chat with him.
Tuha was humbled by his achievements and deflected any praise by crediting his teammates rather than his individual prowess, which included a 60-metre long-range try past Rooster Brendan Elliot and his game-sealing hattrick-securing effort in the 52nd minute where he was mere centimetres away from stepping on the sideline.
"I was just happy that I was able to play in the side with all of these boys," Tuha told NRL.com.
"Kerrod is my home boy. He's come a long way and I'm just happy to be playing outside of him.
"I won't be giving him any cheek for stealing the try scoring lead off him; I think I just might thank him for the assists."
Signed by the club to play part in their 2013 NYC season after scoring 24 tries in the local Auckland competition the year prior, Tuha went on to score 14 times in 22 games in the Holden Cup.
Despite this, he was cut loose by the Knights and only returned to the Hunter after a brief sabbatical back in New Zealand when local club Lakes United signed the 22-year-old to play in the local competition.
Earning Newcastle's Real NRL Players' Player in 2014, one season on Tuha credited Lakes for pushing him towards his current achievements – coincidentally on a day where Lakes too won 24-18 in their respective grand final against Macquarie Scorpions.
"I can't believe it," Tuha said upon hearing news of Lakes' victory.
"Lakes have been really good to me over the years and I definitely appreciated going back to them to play when I wasn't needed in NSW Cup. They helped me a lot in my footy in that over the past few seasons."
Newcastle VB NSW Cup coach Matt Lantry credited Tuha for the long road he has taken to become a success.
"Honeti was tremendous. He's a try scorer and that's what we've seen out there in that grand final," Lantry said.
"He has some deficiencies in his game and he knows that. I have to challenge him to better himself in defence, but putting the ball over the stripe you'd rather him in your team than him running against you that's for sure."