Hard-hitting New Zealand Warriors rugby league prop Mark Tookey was feeling confident about his future and that of his club yesterday. Despite keen interest from several other clubs, Tookey had just signed a contract for another two seasons with the Auckland-based franchise.
Last Sunday's stumbling loss to St George Illawarra aside, both Tookey and the Warriors have been thrilling fans with impressive performances in 2002.
Just two years ago it was all so different. In Tookey's first year with the Warriors he struggled with his weight and for a time he was sent back to Sydney to take part in lower level games with the Newtown Jets.
It was an unhappy time for the rest of the club, too, as boardroom manoeuvres became more interesting than those on the field.
Nowadays, Tookey is being talked about as a future member of the Queensland State of Origin team and the Warriors have just come off a club record eight-match winning streak.
"There's a big future for the club, and I want to be part of it," Tookey said immediately after signing his new contract.
"Early on in my career I was unfit. I wasn't as strong, I wasn't getting time on the field. I was doing five to 10-minute stints," he said.
"It's all about maturity. I'm just trying to change my body shape, trying to lose the fat and turn it into muscle. I've done that over the last two years. I'm playing better than ever before."
Among those suggesting Tookey could be a future Queensland prospect is Warriors chief executive Mick Watson, and Tookey said selection for the state was his "ultimate goal". "Every young Queensland boy dreams of playing for the Maroons," he said.
Part of the reason he had decided to stay with the Warriors was the welcome he had received in Auckland.
"Even when I was struggling to make first grade they still welcomed me with open arms. The fans here are awesome."
The immediate goal for Tookey and the rest of his team is to bounce back from their poor performance last weekend.
They will be looking to regain their winning style of the past few months against a formidable Broncos outfit in Brisbane on Sunday.
Tookey said it did not pay to think too much about how good the Broncos were. "We've got to make sure we come out ready to play," he saidLike