Lote Tuqiri's desire to finish his career on his terms has been hit by a fresh setback, after the Wests Tigers winger was forced to undergo a second round of surgery on an arm injury, sidelining him for up to four months of the season.
And, Fairfax Media has been told that, clouding his latest injury, Tuqiri's one-year contract with the club is yet to be finalised.
Although Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys said ''there's no issue with Lote's deal'', sources close to the 33-year-old winger said the contract was yet to be officially signed off. Tuqiri is potentially out of action until July, by which time what could be his final season in the NRL would be past the halfway mark.
''I was really looking forward to helping the club have the success that everyone is after this year,'' Tuqiri said. ''I have to accept the reality. I will work hard on my rehab and hope to make a contribution later in the year.''
Tuqiri broke his left arm in round 18 last year against the Bulldogs, but underwent bone grafts and had two plates inserted on Tuesday because the injury had not healed properly. Club officials said he would likely be out for up to four months.
''Lote has worked hard in pre-season training,'' coach Mick Potter said. ''He was doing all the fitness work but hasn't been able to get a clearance from the surgeon to do any contact work. We will do everything we can to support his rehabilitation and our main priority is to ensure that he fully recovers.''
Tuqiri, a dual international, made a triumphant return to the NRL in 2010 at the Tigers after a long stint in rugby union, but the following two seasons stuttered as a result of injuries.
The long-term injury comes on top of Beau Ryan's move to Cronulla. Marika Koroibete and Matt Utai are expected be the Tigers' wingers for the round-one clash with Newcastle at Hunter Stadium.
- Sydney Morning Herald