Taniela Paseka knows he's in the right environment at Manly to ensure old habits don’t creep back into his game next season.
The 20-year-old was one of the biggest forwards to have ever played in the Holden Cup competition for his sheer size alone.
A mid-season transfer from the Wests Tigers to the Sea Eagles also brought some unexpected media attention.
In a Sydney Morning Herald in April, a headline read ‘Manly Sea Eagles recruit Taniela Paseka – the biggest thing to hit the NRL’.
It talked how the ‘two-metre, 119-kilogram prop is expected to push for a first-grade debut with the Sea Eagles in the coming months’.
One rival recruitment manager even stated “He reminds me of a young Jason Taumalolo – he's untackleable."
For the softly spoken young Tongan, the media focus was very raw. Suddenly, people expected more.
Paseka made 18 appearances for the Sea Eagles in the U20s competition after making his club debit in round five. An injury in round 26 cruelly saw him miss the finals and the grand final victory.
“I didn’t know how to handle that (media) pressure. But when I arrived here at Manly, the coaching staff definitely put me in my place,’’ Paseka said.
“When I look back on the season, I could have done more. Maybe that (spotlight) was part of the reason. I did get comfortable.
“I took things for granted. I didn’t take advantage of the opportunities I had. I regret that. That won’t be the case next year.
“When I was at the Tigers, I couldn’t see any opportunities for me. I needed a shake up and the move to Manly has been very good for me.
“This is my second pre-season but it’s definitely the hardest. The first month has been tough and Sunday is our only day off. Dan Ferris (Head of Physical Performance) is certainly getting us into shape.
“One of the things Trent Barrett says to the players is not to waste a training session. I need to make the most of my opportunity now because if I don’t, it will go just like that.
Giving Paseka even more added motivation to succeed is the belief Barrett has in him. Now a full-time player, Barrett named Paseka on an extended bench at different times this season.
“I couldn’t believe that I was that close (to playing first grade). Seeing my name on those lists has only made me hungrier,’’ Paseka said.
“With Martin Taupau and Addin Fonua-Blake (on holidays after the World Cup), this is my chance to impress the coaches early.
“Apart from working on my defence, I need to be more aggressive and use my size more efficiently. It is all up to me now but I’m loving the challenge here at Manly.”