With just one round of Super Rugby behind us for 2020, there’s already a new member to welcome to the RUPA Centurions Club in NSW Waratahs recruit, prop Tetera Faulkner.
It’s a wonderful achievement, with Faulkner’s 100 caps split between the Western Force (70 Super Rugby caps), Melbourne Rebels (29) and his new Club, NSW Waratahs, where he was on debut against the Crusaders in Nelson.
Faulkner is the 61st player to reach 100 Super Rugby caps for Australian Clubs, and the fourteenth prop. He made his Super Rugby debut in 2011 for the Western Force, moving to the Melbourne Rebels in 2018, and has represented Australia at schoolboy, Junior Wallabies and full Test level.
Alongside him for a lot of that journey has been hooker Robbie Abel, who has represented the same three Super Rugby Clubs (as well as the Brumbies) as Faulkner, and whose Rugby journey alongside Tetera goes back even further than that.
“I’ve known Tet for about fifteen years, playing Rugby with and against him for that long,” Abel tells RUPA. “We both moved to Canberra to play Rugby at school, myself from the country and him from Victoria, and he went to Marist and I went to St Edmunds.
“We played against each other and trained together since then, and for some reason we’ve spent time together at the Force, Rebels and now the Waratahs. We’ve built a special relationship over that time, and our entire families have.”
Having played on rival teams on many occasions along that journey, Abel doesn’t need to hesitate when you ask whether he’d rather play against, or alongside, Faulkner.
“I definitely prefer to play alongside him than against him. Tet is an amazingly consistent person and you can always depend upon him, on and off the field. He is so genuine and he gives you everything he has, whenever you need it. He’s been that kind of guy ever since I have known him and he works extremely hard, and that’s the exact kind of guy you want packing down next to you at scrum time.”
Abel and wife Taila have two children, while Faulkner and wife Ashley have four children, and Robbie explained that Tet’s dedication to his family is also something which inspires him.
“Tet is somebody who puts his family first, every time. That is what means the most to him and I think I’m fairly similar in that regard, there’s never any hesitation when it comes to family and he is always taking care of them. He’s lost some family members during his Rugby career and been through some hard times in that sense, but he has always taken the good with the bad and remained as positive as possible, and he’s a wonderful person in that regard.”
The stars certainly aligned in 2020, with both men out of contract in Melbourne and pursued to bring their front row expertise and experience to Sydney, as the Waratahs looked to replace the likes of Sekope Kepu and Tolu Latu.
“We planned it pretty well,” Abel said. “When I was talking with the ‘Tahs, and he was doing so at the same time, we spent just as long speaking with each other and making sure we were both going to sign.
"A massive part of my family and I wanting to move here and play for the Waratahs was because we knew that Tet and his family were coming too.”
Although he may be slightly biased, Abel can already see the benefits for his new teammates in being exposed to Faulkner’s wisdom and approach to his Rugby.
“He’s had a massive influence on the Waratahs squad already. It’s no secret that we have a lot of young boys, and he plays a big role with them. He is extremely calm in nature, and it’s very easy for young front rowers to be overwhelmed by the competition we’re playing in so the way that he approaches the game is critical in helping them to relax. He’s big on focusing on the things which you can control, taking everything as it comes and being grateful for the opportunity we have. All of the young boys see and feel that and follow it.”
Reflecting on his close friend’s achievement, Robbie had the following parting message.
“I’m proud of everything he has done and I’m so grateful I have been lucky enough to come along for the ride for a lot of the way. Everybody he has played with knows that he is a great man, and it’s an awesome achievement.”
On behalf of Australia’s Rugby players, we congratulate Tetera Faulkner on qualifying for the RUPA Centurions Club – a fantastic achievement.