Tongan Thor and "Baby Thor" to tag team in Reds-Tahs

Super Rugby - AU
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The Reds' Taniela 'Tongan Thor" Tupou has emerged into a world class prop in recent seasons and now Queensland fans can look forward to seeing the man dubbed "baby Thor" in action.

Queensland has named teenage tighthead Zane Nonggorr on the bench for a potential debut and Thorn was full of praise for the teenager.

At 126kg, the former Southport School captain is certainly fully grown and he has impressed the Reds every step of the way.

"He's come and he's trained with us over the preseason, he's come into training post-COVID," he said.

"He's worked hard, we think he's a really good young talent and here's an opportunity for him off the bench and we'll see if he gets some time but we've got a lot of belief in Zane and it's a good little story, another guys coming along.

"He's done a lot of good work with (scrum coach) Cameron Lillicrap with our coaching group and he's got a real maturity for his age.

"He's not a little lad, he's 126 kilo or something, he's got some ability...and whatnot but he's done a lot of work and he's getting an opportunity hopefully this week."

Nonggoor has been dubbed in some circles as 'baby Thor" for his similarities to Tupou and Thorn said he could see where the comparison came from.

"Probably is, little bit smaller at the moment but he's got a good carry on and a good tackle, smart footballer and I'm sure scrumming will only improve," he said.

Nonggoorr has a pretty good guide to learn from with Tupou the form tighthead in Australia in Super Rugby AU.

Tupou has played almost every minute of the Super Rugby AU competition, including a 90-minute stint in the Reds-Rebels Super Time draw in round two.

It's a far cry from a player who just over a year ago was battling a crisis of confidence amid some inconsistent form.

Even before the coronavirus shutdown, Tupou's minutes had drastically increased, averaging 71 minutes per game compared to just 58 and 60 in his two seasons previous.


Tupou's work in the COVID-19 shutdown period was praised by Wallabies staff and his form since the Super Rugby AU competition kicked off has only served to reaffirm his status as one of Australia's greatest front row assets.

Thorn said Tupou had taken it upon himself to go to the next level as a leader and as a front rower this year.

"He's really stepping up and really maturing," he said.

"He had that focus, he talked to me in the preseason about wanting to grow as a leader of the team, you saw it with his age and how long he'd been around, he's played 50+ games of Super Rugby, been to World Cups, played Wallaby games.

"You're seeing him with his scrummaging especially, globally that would be rated at tighthead, and all the other things he brings.

"He's got a great set of hands, he's got his running and he's working hard on his defensive side of his game."

Being able to make it through some marathon stints this season has injected a sense of pride into Tupou as well, Thorn said.

"He's just a great guy Taniela, lovely young man and it's good to see him enjoying his rugby," he said.

"I  think there's a sense of pride with him - he played that 90-minute game against the Rebels and I remember afterwards he said to me, 'I get to 50,60 and I just conk' and I think he's actually enjoying playing those longer minutes and just the fulfillment of doing the job.

"If you think about on the weekend (against the Brumbeis) he took on two Wallaby looseheads, one after the other and I thought there was dominance there, so he's coming along well and once again pleased to have him at this club and this team and the mindset he's in."

Ironically, Tupou's improved fitness might mean that Nonggorr's chances of a debut are slimmed but either way, the Reds certainly will be bringing the heavyweights to the fight on Saturday night.

The Reds take on the Waratahs on Saturday August 8 at the SCG, kicking off at 7:15pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy tickets here. Buy a Kayo Sports subscription here.