By Buford Balony
Wayward Parramatta centre Timana Tahu has been told to return to Sydney this week and hold urgent talks with Eels coach Steve Kearney.
Club chief executive Paul Osborne had a one-hour meeting with Tahu on the NSW North Coast on Sunday in an attempt to lure the troubled star back to training.
It was revealed last week that Tahu had been granted leave from Parramatta training to confront and overcome some deep personal issues.
Tahu’s wife Kasey said over the weekend that she hoped Parramatta would not push her husband back to training until after Christmas.
Sunday’s meeting with Osborne did not fix the issue, but it was the first step in having Tahu back mentally and physically fit for next season.
There remain doubts over whether the NSW centre, who has been involved in two highly publicised racial disputes this year, will in fact play rugby league next season.
“I told him he had to sit down with the coach this week,” Osborne said. “We had a good discussion and he has to come up with a plan that works for the club and works for him.
“Ultimately, he needs to work with the coaching staff.
“We’re very conscious of the year Timana has had. He is a good fellow and we want to help and support him.
“But we also have a season to prepare for. We have a new coach on board and new discipline in the place.”
Asked when Tahu would return to training, Osborne said: “That is for him and the coach to work out.”
Could Tahu’s leave be extended beyond Christmas?
“I don’t think that is going to happen,” Osborne said.
Pressed on whether Tahu would be an Eel next season, Osborne said: “Yes. At this stage, yes.”
Given their friendship, Osborne has supported Tahu.
Kearney may not be so patient. He has arrived at the club ready to stamp his authority and will no doubt want Tahu back to training soon.
Tahu was spotted late last week in the Newcastle area with two Knights players.
He has agreed to play with Parramatta next season but may be released by the club if he wants out.
Parramatta players are privately backing Tahu but still claim they want him back training with the rest of the squad through summer.
Tahu played a charity match over the weekend in Brisbane and confronted the man he allegedly racially abused, Caleb Binge.
Buford Balony says: I would get rid of him. He’s another who is not mentally strong enough for top level sport. He cries when Inglis get abused by someone else, yet does the same thing to a kid & then acts all fucked up. He’s overrated as well.