“One, two, miss a few,” Papalii joked about his Raiders teammate’s previous work ethic at the gym. “He’d just go in there, talk, and then you wouldn’t see him afterwards.”
He would just go in, talk, and then no one would see him again.
In his seventh year in the NRL and after his team had almost no strikers in their closet, Tapine finally gave it a try. It wasn’t like he had no strength, he just didn’t do weights because he had no talent in the gym, didn’t feel like it, and had a combination of injuries.
“I know it sounds weird to a professional athlete, but I’ve always been terrible in the gym so I avoided it,” said Tapine. “Small halfbacks can bet more than I can on the bench. It’s embarrassing.
“The performance staff came up to me and said, ‘Buddy, we need to get you to the gym more’. I actually started to love it. I still can’t put more than the halfbacks on the bench, but I get in there and get in my job done. ”
The 26-year-old New Zealand international has been one of the best in Canberra in recent years, but no one could have predicted his rapid development this season.
During his 100th NRL game for the club last week, he scored a memorable final attempt that helped push Canberra forward within 80 minutes of yet another grand final.
“He’s very, very strong,” said Papalii. “Kyle O’Donnell will do weights every day and then he wrestled with Taps and Taps just turned him over. He’s just a natural.
“I still can’t get over his weekend attempt, the footwork, the speed… it’s good to have. You’d never see Taps doing extras when training his footwork, he just plays what’s in front of him. I think Taps is one of those who finally found how good he can be. ”
Tapine appears as one of Stuart’s wildcards in the big qualifier against Craig Bellamys Storm, well rested for the showdown at Suncorp Stadium.
“It’s burning,” said Tapine. “Little number 9 slipped and I didn’t come back in time and slipped, it still haunts me. It just pops in my head. You know how to lie in bed and get random thoughts, this attempt just comes to me.
“But I can feel [the weight regime] Benefit for me in the field. I prepare better every week and there is a little routine that I have on my mind. ”
Adam Pengilly is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.