A revelation in his first two seasons of Super Rugby after a polished two-year career in the Australian rugby league competition, JOE TOMANE (pronounced Toe-mah-nee) slotted easily back into the role of Test winger in 2013.
Tomane made his Test debut against Scotland on a torrid night in Newcastle in June 2012, but injury saw to it that was his only appearance in Wallaby gold that year.
He returned to Test colours during the 2013 series against the British & Irish Lions, slotting in seamlessly for the injured Digby Ioane as starting wing in the second and third Tests.
Tomane was also a key man for the Brumbies in 2013, helping the side to its first Super Rugby final appearance since 2004.
Although Tomane’s one Test last year came on a difficult night at Newcastle in the season-opening Test match, and the result against Scotland that evening didn’t go to script, his contribution in conditions that were unsuited to back play was significant. He received few attacking chances in the match, but did save Will Genia’s blushes, and Australia a try, after the Wallabies’ halfback spilled a Scottish high ball which spewed behind the goal-line, to be cleaned up by Tomane in a mad scramble with the chasing Scottish attackers.
The 22-year-old’s performance on the night saw him named to play the first Test against Wales four nights later, but those plans were dashed when he sustained a syndesmosis injury to his ankle at training two days out from that match. Ironically, his place for that Test was taken by another Kiwi-born recruit to the game from rugby league, the ex-Newcastle Knights winger Cooper Vuna.
An attempted return at the back end of Super Rugby also ended in disaster, with Tomane sustaining further ankle damage which put him out for the season, during the home loss to the Blues which also proved a disaster for the Brumbies, bundling them out of the tournament. Still, Tomane’s impact in his first season back in Rugby was such that the Brumbies have sought to get him more involved with the ball this year, while the Qantas Wallabies selectors have continued to take a keen interest in his progress.
His inclusion in last year’s June Test squad was recognition for a season where he had been one of the main strike weapons for his rejuvenated Super Rugby outfit.
The New Zealand-born player was educated in Brisbane, firstly at Marsden State High School, where his school mates included the noted rugby league players Antonio Winterstein and Chris Sandow, and the high profile rugby league, Australian Rules and now NSW Waratahs star, Israel Folau. He then moved to the well renowned Rugby breeding ground of St Joseph’s College Nudgee for his final year of school, cracking the Australian Schools side of 2007 where his team-mates included the future Qantas Wallabies James O’Connor, James Slipper, Rob Horne and Ben Tapuai.
Primarily a wing or fullback, Tomane appeared in all three matches played by the Schoolboys that year, including the 23-17 win over New Zealand. This represented Australia’s first success over its trans-Tasman rivals in a decade. Australia also beat England and Samoa during that campaign.
His performance for the national schoolboys caught the attention of the rugby league scouts, which saw Tomane recruited for what became a four-year first grade career in the 13-man code. He started off with the Melbourne Storm, ironically making his debut against the Gold Coast Titans, whom he was later to join for his final two seasons in rugby league. A member of the Storm squad which made the 2008 Grand Final and won the championship the following year (although the club was later stripped of the title due to salary cap irregularities), Tomane appeared on 18 occasions for the Storm during those two seasons before relocating to the Gold Coast in 2010. His two years on the Gold Coast netted a further 14 first grade appearances, playing wing and centre, before he opted to return to Rugby, joining the Brumbies after the end of the 2011 NRL competition.
Tomane cited the opportunity to work with the Rugby World Cup-winning Brumbies coach Jake White, and the Rugby World Cup-winning former flyhalf Stephen Larkham, as attractions in luring him to Canberra; and his Wallaby selection rewarded that bold move.
Settled on the wing but utilised closer to the scrum base as well this term, the powerful back has flourished, proving hard to contain in contact, while also maintaining good ball security. Of Samoan descent, Tomane was born in Palmerston North, but moved with his family to Australia when he was three years old. He is the proud father of a four-year-old daughter, Starsha. His cousin Brando Va’aulu represented Queensland in Super Rugby, as well as Australia at Under-19 and Under-21 level, and is now playing professionally in Japan.
FAST FACT: Although he has lived all but three years of his life in Australia, Joe Tomane hasn’t forgotten his Kiwi roots, listing the ex-All Black stars Christian Cullen and Jonah Lomu as his Rugby heroes growing up. Cullen was raised near Levin, from where Tomane’s wider family on his father’s side is still based.