Penrith rebel gets a break
He's been dumped by four of his previous six clubs and last year pleaded guilty to trying to use a forged prescription to access a restricted substance but troubled Kiwi league player Arana Taumata has been given another chance to resurrect his career.
The 22-year-old, who was stood down by the Penrith Panthers in June last year after it emerged that a prescription script with his name on it was used to obtain Valium from a pharmacy, has been retained on a one-year deal with the west Sydney club.
Sunday News understands that in August, Taumata's lawyer told a Parramatta courtroom that his client had been suffering from depression and anxiety at the time of the incident.
Given his already poor disciplinary record, it appeared that the Panthers would follow the lead of four other NRL clubs the Broncos, Roosters, Bulldogs and Storm and kick him into touch.
But Penrith's general manager Phil Gould yesterday said Taumata had worked hard since the incident to turn his life around and deserved a second chance.
"Arana has been on a controlled programme of rehabilitation for the past eight months and at this stage has been permitted to the second-tier programme as part of that rehabilitation process," Gould said.
"I've got to know Arana and his family extremely well during this process and both he and his family have worked hard to assist him.
"I'm hoping this story has a happy ending."
Following his guilty plea, Taumata, a two-time New Zealand Maori star from Wellington, was placed on an 18-month good behaviour bond by the Parramatta Local Court and ordered to undergo counselling and medical treatment.
It's understood that he has made big strides since then and yesterday his agent Sam Ayoub said he was confident the talented playmaker would make the most of the opportunity the Panthers had given him.
"I don't want to say too much, only because I want to give the kid every opportunity," Ayoub said. "But I can say that he is back at the Panthers.
"He's had a bit of a layoff in the off-season to give him time to get away and to reflect on things and deal with some issues.
"He seems to have adequately done that and, in the process, the Panthers, in their wisdom, have decided to give him an opportunity again.
"It's great for him and I think really good on their part to show a bit of faith in the kid that they can see has done the right thing for the last three or four months."
Ayoub said Taumata's one-year deal with the Panthers contained no behaviour clauses.
"It's just a basic one-year deal that has given him the opportunity to come back and try and resurrect his career," he said.
"He will be treated like every other individual at the club."