TITANS’ 25-year-old utility man Brad Takairangi certainly showed his versatility in 2014, playing left and right centre, five-eighth and in the back row after starting the season in reserve grade.
The tall Cook Island World Cup representative did not make the line-up until the Raiders clash in round three before he joined the side for the injured Maurice Blair but gradually cemented his place in his second season with the club, missing just one game (injured) for the remainder of the season.
When the Titans hit a crisis in the halves with season-starters Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly, and assigned understudy Beau Henry and stop-gap replacement Maurice Blair all out of action, ‘Taka’ moved in a position to play five-eighth and proved a dangerous option for the side.
It is the position where he played most of his junior football (at Cronulla) before putting on a lot of height and being switched to the centres. After starting his senior career with Souths in the under-20s, he was moved to the back row by the Roosters, so he had the experience and natural talent to become the Titans’ trouble-shooter.
His versatility obviously contributed to him being chosen in the New Zealand Test train-on squad in September, but he’ll state that he feels centre is his position.
“I definitely see myself as a centre but because there were so many injuries and I had the ability to play at five-eighth or in the back row I was more than happy to play there to help the team out,” he said.
“I’d have to say it’s been my most consistent year and to be recognised by making the Kiwi training squad was a great reward, it was a real buzz when I got the call.
“It has always been a dream to play for the Kiwis and I’m over the moon just to make the train-on squad and hopefully I can train hard and make the final squad.”
Centre was a tough spot in the team in 2014 in that there were a dozen halves combinations tried because of injury circumstance and wingers also changed with David Mead and Kevin Gordon starting well but Anthony Don and Kalifa Faifai Loa also getting plenty of game time.
But Takairangi’s form continued to improve as the season went on.
“Changing positions over the season didn’t help us and having to forge combinations, with the halves inside and wingers outside,” said Takairangi. “But you just have to adapt, a lot of teams do.
“While we struggled to get wins after the first eight rounds, there weren’t many times when we lost by big scores, so it was definitely a frustrating season but we saw some young players come through and develop and that will help the club going forward.”
Takairangi scored a couple of determined short-range tries late in the season, including the crucial one that saw the scores levelled in the last round come-from-behind victory against grand finalists Canterbury, which showed how hard he is to contain close to the line. Defence is an area knows he has had to improve but worked hard on this.
The final Kiwi Test side will be announced next Monday.