As Martin Taupau pulls on the Manly jersey for the 150th time this Friday night, one ‘giant of a man’ will be at the forefront of his mind.
“When I think about Manly, there is only one person, it’s ‘Bozo’,’’ Taupau says, with a deep heart.
Bob Fulton, aka ‘Bozo’, was the Sea Eagles greatest ever player, who sadly passed away in May last year, aged 74.
One of the game's original 'Immortals', Fulton holds the unique distinction of winning premiership titles and Ashes series as a player, captain and coach. He played 213 games for Manly.
For Taupau, who is now in his seventh season at Manly, 'Bozo’ was more than just a rugby league icon, but a cherished friend.
“Bob and his wife, Anne, opened up their hearts, their minds, and their home to me. If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be here (at Manly),’’ Taupau revealed.
“The whole reason I’m here is because of ‘Bozo’. I love him and respect him.
Martin Taupau 150th Club Games Jersey Presentation
“We would often catch up at the coffee shop down the road from his house. We always had a good yarn just about life.
“We wouldn’t talk footy for the first half hour, it was all about family. I loved that because I’m all about family.
“He would talk about his grandkids, his kids, and then afterwards, he would ask me what else do you want to talk about, like 'what’s happening with footy'?
“I would say ‘footy’s alright, you keep the ball, make a couple of tackles’. We would start laughing, have a coffee, and that would be it.
“When I first met ‘Bozo’ at his home, I knew who he was, but I didn’t know about the hierarchy, or the amount of respect that he has got in and out of the game.
He is a giant amongst men in this game.Martin Taupau on Bob Fulton
“I’m grateful that I was able to spend those valuable moments, big or small, with ‘Bozo’, his wife, and with his family.
“I love this club because of ‘Bozo’.”
It’s that love and family traits of Fulton’s that 32-year-old Taupau now shares with his family, especially eight-year-old son, Isaiah, who is a constant sight by his Dad’s locker at Manly home games.
“Isaiah just loves being on the field, being a part of it, and catching up with all of the boys,’’ Taupau said, with a huge smile.
“My first question to him after a game is ‘how did you enjoy it?’. He says ‘I loved it. My next question is ‘who do you want to see, who do you want to talk to?’.
“Last week we played the Knights and he goes ‘I want to talk to (Kalyn) Ponga, I want to talk to (Tyson) Frizell’. I say how about Dad?. He goes ‘oh yeah, that too’.
“I just love it, I love to share the experience, and that’s the reason why I bring him out onto the field.”
With 215 games and 13 NRL seasons to his record, Taupau was asked what advice he would give now to a young Martin Taupau, who started his rugby league career on the wing for Endeavour Sports High School.
“Surround yourself with good honest people, the right people with integrity and with the same values and morals as you,’’ Taupau reflected.
“People who treat you as a human first and as an athlete second.”
One gets the feeling ‘Bozo’ would be very proud indeed.