Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu says he’s ready to be more of a seven-days-a-week rugby player, after a disappointing 2017.
Latu loomed as the top of the line of next generation hookers when 2017 started, but a host of injuries and a late-season training absence contributed to a downward slide as the year went on.
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika criticised his fitness after the June Series and Latu was overtaken in the Test stakes by Rebels youngster Jordan Uelese by the end of the year.
The departure of Tatafu Polota-Nau had handed Latu his first regular starting spot, but the 24-year-old admitted he didn’t handle the extra load well, physically or mentally.
Looking at the stars around him, including ultra-durable skipper Michael Hooper, Latu realised he needed to switch on more away from the club.
“You just see older guys like Hoops, Izzy (Folau), Nard (Bernard Foley), Nick Phipps, you see those guys, when they're away from rugby, they're away from rugby but also in the back of their minds, they're doing their best to recover and do the little things that help them get ready for the week ahead,” he said.
“This year was probably the first year I've been starting consistently and sometimes you've got short turnarounds and recovery is a big key to that.
“If you want to play consistently like guys like Hoops, Izzy, definitely recovery is going to be a big part for myself going into next year.”
Latu tweaked a calf in his opening preseason session this week, but is optimistic that would be just a minor setback, with a big fitness hill to climb.
“I’m definitely going to be put through my paces, making sure I do a bit more extra fitness than other guys that are already fit and so just that extra top-up will be key for me as well.
Latu wasn’t on his own when it came to frustrating seasons at Moore Park, with the Waratahs setting all kinds of unwanted records in a five-win 2017.
The hooker said NSW needed to get away from playing in fits and bursts, but they were quick to try and put that year out of their minds.
“We played to our potential probably in halves and bits and pieces but not for the full 80 and if you want to be successful in this comp, you have to play for the 80,” he said.
“Especially from the younger blokes coming into the squad, you see that they're eager every day and very keen and that's the energy that we need going forward because we can't be looking back on the season that we had, thinking about that.
“We need to move on, those younger guys have really brought that energy and it's rubbing off on everyone.”
The Waratahs kick off their season against the Sharks on Saturday February 24, 2018, at Allianz Stadium at 7:45pm AEDT. Tickets at waratahs.com.au.