The Queanbeyan Blues plucked Alex Tulolo out of reserve grade in the hope of turning him into a Canberra Raiders Cup star and the 23-year-old repaid coach Simon Woolford with a four-try haul on Saturday.
Blues centre Tulolo had a field day against the Yass Magpies, crossing the line four times in a 48- 4 rout to continue their unbeaten start to the season.
Less than a year ago Tulolo was playing for the Tuggeranong Bushrangers reserve grade side with his mates and was content to play for fun.
But Woolford saw potential and recruited him to fill the void left by Tom Ruediger. The move paid off in a demolition of the Magpies as the Blues romped to a 44-point win.
“He’s a new recruit for us after we lost our best player in Tom Ruediger moving to England,” Woolford said.
“Alex has been finding his feet. He was playing reserve grade and not really training that often when he was at Tuggeranong ... but he did a good job against our reserve grade side in the grand final last year.
“We saw him as someone with real potential, so we picked him up, he got himself fit and he’s been building to a performance like today.”
The Blues were never troubled in their clash against the Magpies, cruising out to a lead and only leaking one try for the match. By the time the Magpies scored, the game was all but beyond their grasp against a competition powerhouse.
Woolford said there was still room for improvement despite a perfect start to the year, citing scrappy wins and too much dropped ball as his team builds another premiership-potential season.
Halfback Eko Malu scored a try and kicked six goals while Tyler Stevens and Aaron McInnes scored two tries each.
Malu played in two NRL under- 20s grand finals with the New Zealand Warriors and is steering the Blues’ ship.
“We haven’t been at the peak yet and plenty still to work on,” Woolford said.
“Eko’s been around for a few years, he knows his way around the field and there’s no doubt he can improve, but he’s doing all right at the moment and that’s the main thing.”
The Magpies are back in the Canberra Raiders Cup after a threeyear absence, and co-coach Steve Naughton admitted his side was on a steep learning curve against the Blues.
“The Blues are obviously the benchmark in the competition, but we were hoping to be more competitive than that,” Naughton said.
“The problem was that we played in patches and didn’t put it together for the game. We had a bit of hope there, but it didn’t last long.
“The speed of the game is a bit different to the level we’ve been playing at ... defensively we haven’t been in matches, so that’s something that we’ve got to fix. That’s the biggest learning curve for us.”