Zane Tetevano never wanted to play against his Sydney Roosters teammates, but was looking for a different challenge at the end of 2019.
The club means so much to him he has Trent Robinson’s premiership ring from last season in his cupboard at home – a gift from the coach after Tetevano gave away his 2018 ring to his dying grandfather.
Off-contract with the NRL premiers and with several options up his sleeve – including retirement – it wasn’t until he was preparing to make his debut for New Zealand against Australia in October when an opportunity piqued his interest.
Warrington and other Sydney clubs had come knocking, but there was something about Penrith that appealed to the 29-year-old prop.
“I kind of like challenges. It’s a different kind of challenge,” he told AAP.
“Coming from the Roosters, there’s a lot of leaders there, everyone just does their work but I felt like I needed to up my game.”
After 73 NRL games with the Roosters and two premierships, breaking away from the club that resurrected his NRL career following a domestic assault scandal was never going to be easy.
But a phone call from Penrith’s head of performance Hayden Knowles, whom he had met when he was a trainer at the Roosters in 2017, made his decision simple.
“He teed up a meeting and I came out a couple of days after the Test and I liked it. The club has an awesome history and heaps of young guys coming through,” he said.
“I needed a new challenge and I was ready.
“I was a bit iffy about playing against my old teammates, but I had to close it off and grab the opportunity now and test myself.”
The test started two weeks early for Tetevano who showed up a fortnight before he was due at training to endure the gruelling Army camp with his new teammates – a bonding experience he knew he would regret missing if he didn’t.
“I wanted to meet the boys and earn some respect. That was pretty tough, I had to do a week of preparation before the camp because the boys were already ready, they were four or five weeks into training,” he said.
“It was awesome, it brings the team together and forms relationships and bonds. If I didn’t go on the camp, I wouldn’t have the connection with them I do now.”