"It was pretty tough ... Footy is a big part of my life": Jorge Taufua. Photo: Getty Images
Relieved not to have been denied a shot at a premiership, Manly winger Jorge Taufua has vowed to use his own off-field incident as an example to emerging players that they are not untouchable.
The 21-year-old was banned for two matches before the semi-finals by the Sea Eagles and the NRL, over an incident at Surfers Paradise in October last year in which he admitted spitting on a police officer after being evicted from a nightclub.
Taufua narrowly avoided prison when the matter wound up in court a fortnight ago, instead given a four-month suspended jail sentence.
After returning from suspension in Saturday's 4-0 defeat to the Sydney Roosters, the prolific try-scorer said he deeply regretted his actions and was concerned they may cost him a chance to challenge for a grand final appearance with Manly.
''There was a little bit of fear there … I knew that I would have to miss some game time,'' said Taufua, whose side meet Cronulla in a sudden-death play-off at Allianz Stadium on Friday.
''It was pretty tough for me. Those were the first games I've missed since making my debut here. Footy is a big part of my life. I learnt my lesson and I suffered the consequences. I just can't wait to move forward and maybe help others in a situation like that.''
The fact the incident on the Gold Coast happened nearly a year ago means that Taufua has already had the opportunity to begin to atone for his conduct.
''This year I've done various stuff with some of the players, especially the senior players helping me get my head straight,'' he said. ''The club has helped massively with that. I've been visiting schools, hospitals … the rookie camp, I spoke there.
''They used me as an example there in front of everyone. It was a massive eye-opener from me, something that I've learnt from and hopefully something I can move forward from.
''I've become more responsible since then. I know what's right and wrong now. It's obviously been a massive learning experience for myself.
''[I want] just to focus on footy and hopefully help players in the future with that kind of situation. I'd like to look into doing youth work and that kind of thing to help kids like myself to make better choices.''
Right now, though, Taufua's focus is on the Sharks on Friday, and if possible, extending his tally of tries from the 18 in 23 games - one behind Manly's other winger David Williams, who has 19 from 24 - he has accumulated this season.
The Sea Eagles' left-side attack, completed by Kieran Foran, Steve Matai and Justin Horo, has been key to try-scoring feats and Taufua agrees the unit have created a close understanding.