Doting Toopi embraces surrogate family - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Doting Toopi embraces surrogate family

By Chris Barclay 10/03/2010 01:31:10 PM Comments (0)

Clinton Toopi's return to the NRL with the Gold Coast Titans isn't without its contradictions: the former Kiwis star is an absentee parent while playing the role of father figure.

After more than 100 matches for the Warriors, Toopi is an expectant debutant again, resurrecting his career on the Gold Coast after chronic knee and shoulder injuries raised the prospect of life - and some form of employment - after league.

Fortunately, the 29-year-old convinced the Titans to take a punt on his experience and surgically enhanced knees, although the tradeoff is only webcam contact with his pre-school daughters Waimania and Brianna.

Toopi's wife Turenga was reluctant to shift the girls from the familiar surrounds of Bay of Plenty to the bright lights of Surfers Paradise until the centre's contract contained a degree of permanency.

For now Toopi is signed for the 2010 season, a year where he hopes to eventually start alongside old adversary Mat Rogers and maybe justify another 12 months of first-grade football.

"It's the hardest thing ever, thankfully there's Skype," Toopi said of leaving his girls behind.

"If I stay on my wife will look at coming over, at this stage they'll only come over for the school holidays."

That's a month away, about the timeframe Toopi has given himself to muscle into John Cartwright's starting line-up.

Capped 21 times for the Kiwis between 2001-07, Toopi is currently ranked behind an exciting fellow New Zealander Joseph Tomane in the pecking list.

The 20-year-old is among the Titans' array of maturing backline talent, an exuberance of youth tempered by the on-field savvy of Rogers, Scott Prince, Preston Campbell and when required, Toopi.

Aware they had a cast of future stars lurking out wide, Titans management contracted Toopi primarily as a mentor for the Maori and Polynesian boys.

"I'll do my best to help them get to where they want to be," Toopi told NZPA ahead of Sunday's opening round match against with the Warriors at Skilled Park.

"`There are guys in this team that can be like the (Israel) Folaus or a Greg Inglis.

"The wingers and centres here have so much talent and they've got speed to burn. They've pretty much got it all, they just have to get it right in the head and anything could happen for them."

His message is straight forward.

"At an elite level there's no room for short cuts and if I can impress that on the boys they'll be so much better for it."

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