FEATHERSTONE Rovers head coach Jon Sharp has revealed captain Tim Spears was more delighted than anyone to be led out by club legend Brendon Tuuta ahead of their classic win over Bradford Bulls.
Tuuta, 51, was a guest of honour ahead of Sunday’s 20-0 do-or-die success at Post Office Road that secured Rovers’ place in the Qualifiers and a chance to take on Super League opposition.
The ex-New Zealand loose forward is a cult hero among the Featherstone faithful having spent two spells with the club, initially from 1990 to 1995 and, after stints with Castleford Tigers and Warrington, again when rounding off his career in 1999.
Renowned for his physical approach and nicknamed “The Baby-Faced Assassin”, Tuuta was a regular back-row opponent of Sharp, who played for Hull during that era but lived in Featherstone.
Sharp explained: “He’s a good friend of mine is Toots and I was chuffed to bits when we had opportunity for Brendon to lead us out.
“The game was a special occasion - knowing whoever won would get claim a top-four place - and having a special player lead us out added to it all.
“I had a communication earlier in the week that Brendon was over here (from New Zealand) and would I want him to lead the team out.
“I thought it was a no-brainer and would be great.
“But I spoke to Tim Spears - our captain - about it first and Tim said that Toots was his boyhood hero so it worked out really well.
“It got the fans going a bit, too.”
Featherstone’s brilliant defence, against full-time opponents, was the basis of their superb win which has set up money-spinning home games with Super League champions Leeds Rhinos and Hull KR in the forthcoming Qualifiers.
Tuuta, who was among former team-mates Paul Newlove, Deryck Fox, Carl Hall and Francis Maloney in attendance at the game, would certainly have enjoyed their dominance.
Sharp admitted: “Brendon’s tackle technique might have given a couple of penalties way in his time - and I’ve been on the receiving end a couple of times myself as well!
“But we defended well against Bradford and have done all year. We’ve got the best defence all season.
“To do what we did Sunday was absolutely magnificent and it’s a remarkable achievement.”