LITTLE has changed since Va Talaileva arrived in Newcastle from St Ives to join Hamilton for the 2007Hunter Rugby Union season.
The bruising back-rower won the Anderson Medal in his first year, added a second best and fairest award in 2010 and has represented Newcastle and NSW Country.
Not once has his standards or worth diminished.
Now in the twilight of his career, Talaileva remains as influential as ever and produced another herculean performance to help lift Southern Beaches to a 35-27 triumph over Maitland at Ernie Calland Oval on Saturday.
After leading 21-13 at half-time, the home side were down 27-21 deep in the second half. Enter the inspirational back-rower.
"It was the period in the game where the result was on the line and we needed someone to step up," Southern Beaches co-coach Ben Kinkade said. "Va was outstanding. He was relentless in defence, made tough carries and just led them.
"It was unchartered territory for this group, where you are in a position where you have to fight for the game. Va stepped up and the others followed."
Talaileva is back at Beaches after spending 2019 at University and 2020 with the Hunter Wildfires in a COVID-shortened Shute Shield.
"In 2018 he was player coach here," Kinkade said. "We have taken that burden away from him. We have told him that he can have any input to the team or coaching he likes. But he doesn't have the burden of the team. He can just worry about his own preparation."
Maitland coach Luke Cunningham agreed that Talaileva was instrumental in the turnaround.
"He was putting his hand up to take hit ups and their young forward pack fed off it," Cunningham said. "They don't play a complex style of rugby. They are just very enthusiastic and are buying into whatever the coaching staff are putting to them."
Blockbusting No.8 Jacob Tatupu crashed over for four tries on the back of a dominant Beaches scrum.
"They have a young kid playing No.8 and he is just a wrecking ball," Cunningham said.
The win was Beaches' third straight and first over a top side after lapping University (27-0) and Lake Macquarie (86-0).
"We are a long way off [the finished product], but there are some good signs," Kinkade said.
Cunningham lamented poor handling and lapses in concentration after being in a strong position.
"Our execution and handling was horrendous," Cunningham said. "We dropped the ball over the line three times and we had 22 knock-ons.
"It is no longer a competition where you just have to get up for the top three teams. The comp is so even, you can't afford to give someone a 20-point head start, or drop the ball over the line."
Meanwhile, Hunter Rugby Union president Glenn Turner said Lake Macquarie's position in Premier Rugby was under constant review after the Roos slumped to a third straight heavy defeat, thrashed 102-0 by Hamilton at Passmore Oval.
The Roos' second grade side have suffered similar defeats and Turner said the union had a duty of care to the players.
"The other clubs are concerned about it," Turner said. "We have already asked Lake Macquarie if there is anything we can do to help them. The situation is under constant review."
Elsewhere Saturday, Nelson Bay held on to beat Singleton 31-27 at Strong Oval.
The Gropers led 14-3 early and 14-8 at half-time.
Teenage winger Ethan McLoughlin crossed for Siingleton to cut the gap to 14-13.
The home side skipped away again through tries to Junior Polai and Emerson Burgess to open a 28-13 gap. But the Bulls again found a way back. Sili Are swooped on a loose pass and McLoughlin raced 80 metres for his second to set up a thrilling finish.
In the other game, Sam Rouse ran in four tries as Merewether demolished University 92-5 at Townson Oval.
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