Kiwi Shem Tatupu turning heads in Melbourne

IF Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin takes up a lucrative deal with Greater Western Sydney at the end of the season, Hawthorn might have a replacement on its list to develop, a three-game Oakleigh Charger.

New Zealander Shem Tatupu, 18, is a Hawks international rookie who’s spent his school holidays travelling from Auckland to Melbourne to play TAC Cup and VFL football this season.

The 197cm key forward played three games for the Chargers, two in the April break and one last round. He also debuted for Box Hill in the VFL Development League last Saturday.

Hawthorn head of recruiting and list management Graham Wright first saw Tatupu play as a 14-year-old in a tournament in Fiji; the club kept tabs on him before signing him up.

TAC Cup: Western Jets v Oakleigh Chargers
Shem Tatupu in action for the Oakleigh Chargers

The son of the former Warriors rugby league star Tony, who also represented Samoa at two World Cups, Tatupu plays union back home and works on his AFL skills every Monday.

He will move to Melbourne later this year after finishing year 13 at school and can’t wait to be a fully-fledged Hawk on a three-year contract.

“I’m very passionate about becoming an AFL footballer,” he said.

” I’ve got a lot to learn, but it’s a great challenge which I’m taking on.

“When I’m at the club I’m learning from the guys on the track every day.

“Jarryd Roughead’s one guy who’s been really good to me, he picks up on little things I can work on and is my motivation.”

“Obviously, I try to model my game on Buddy. He uses his body well, takes great marks and there’s nothing not to like about him.”

The experience Tatupu gained while playing with the Chargers has been valuable.

“It’s been a milestone for me. The coaching staff have been great, the things they’ve taught me and shown me the way,” he said.

“They’ve done bodywork with me and work on leading for the ball.”

Hawthorn recruiting and special projects manager Mark McKenzie said Tatupu was a powerful athlete who was quick for his size.

“Shem’s strength is his competitiveness. We’re looking for him to be a power forward in the future,” McKenzie told the Hawks website.

“He’s a good mark at the moment and he can kick both sides.

“Hopefully we can keep developing his game sense and he can improve from there.

“One thing that’s really come forward this year is his goal kicking. He can definitely kick a long way and just getting that routine into his technique has been great for him.

“He’s a guy who can lead, he’s got that quickness that can lead up at the footy but can also take those pack marks.”

*Originally published by the Waverley Leader