MANLY firebrand Marty Taupau has a blunt message for all the haters who label him a grub: “Say it to my face.”
The New Zealand enforcer has gained a cult following with his monster hits, explosive lifts and his infamous throat-slitting gesture in the Anzac Test last year.
But critics have taken aim at Taupau in recent weeks following his one-match ban for a high shot on Cronulla’s Jack Bird.
Prior to this year, Taupau has only been suspended once when he was outed for three weeks for dangerous contact on James Maloney in 2015.
The 26-year-old faces the New Zealand Warriors pack this Saturday in Auckland, and has challenged those back-stabbing him to front him in person.
“Everyone knows I’m this aggressive grub, there are so many things,” he said, tongue-in-cheek. “Grub, aggressive, angry man, enforcer. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to produce the goods on the field.
“If that’s it, then so be it. Words (like grub) get thrown around, conversations. I don’t really care if you call me a grub or not but it would be nice if they said it to my face.
“I am overly-competitive and I love the challenge when people doubt your ability. I love it. I love putting my foot forward and saying: ‘Hey, you said I couldn’t do this but I am doing it, 100 per cent’. There are times when people don’t like it but that’s the nature of the beast.”
Taupau has become one of the rugby league’s most explosive forwards, with his on-field aggression.
Asked did he agree with the names he was being called or resent them, Taupau said: “Neither. It does affect me at times, but not in a negative way.
“People could say they don’t really care — it is what it is. Everyone judges a person by the way they play their football, whether it’s soft or not. But it’s totally different to the person you are off the field.”
Taupau has quickly earned his firebrand tag. He is tough, willing and a cult figure.
“It is what it is,” he said. “It’s not anything that I have asked for. It’s just my persona, the person that I am on the field. You have to do it, especially being in the forwards, you have to bring that aggression. It’s just the way that I am,” he said.
“Whatever comes of it, I’ve just got to enjoy it and tag along with it.”
Taupau is a throwback when rugby league was fire-and-brimstone and players went at it aggressively and without fear.
“It’s nice to watch the good old ‘70s and ‘80s and see the swinging arms and then they get back up. They hated each other and you tried to get it over your mates,” he said. “But then afterwards you would go into the opposing sheds, shake hands and say ‘good game, see you next week’.
“I wish it was like that these days but you have to look at player welfare as well, and look after the player’s longevity.”
Taupau will be called on to match and overcome the giant Warriors pack at Mount Smart Stadium. It will be significant challenge against a Warriors side which has won successive matches.
Taupau denied there was more ‘spice’ given he too was a Kiwi.
“Not really, it’s more about trying to get a win, especially after the Souths loss,” Taupau said. “We have to be tough — they have big boppers, big players. It will be a huge task for us but for us having Jake Trbojevic back, we will be looking to regroup, see what we need to fix up and we’ll go from there.
“Every individual takes it upon themselves to try and spark something to lead the pack. This is another opportunity for us to show what we can produce.”