‘Seriously crazy’ Mark Telea hailed as ‘one of the best wingers in the world’

Dylan Coetzee
Blues star Mark Telea with ball in hand

Blues skipper Dalton Papali’i waxed lyrical about his star winger Mark Telea ahead of the Aucklanders’ final game of the season against the Highlanders at home.

The 2023 regular season may not have been as glittering as last year but the Blues sit in a comfortable third place on the table heading into the final round.

Red-hot Telea

One highlight of the year so far has been the continued rise of Telea, who has shown his venom with ball in hand throughout and is establishing himself as one of the most effective runners in Super Rugby Pacific.

Papali’i labelled Telea as a problem but not within the squad, rather one for any defenders trying to stop him.

“He’s unbelievable, man, seriously crazy,” said Papali’i. “He’s got really good balance, and for his size he’s bloody powerful. I’ve played him at NPC and gone to tackle him, and he’s just given me a bullet fend. Its like, ‘hey, I’ve got to think how to tackle this guy’.

“He’s been a problem, and he’s always going to be a problem.”

Will only improve

The captain joked about having Telea slow down once he almost inevitably breaks the line to let him catch up. Papali’i only expects him to get better.

”If he makes a break I tell him to pipe it down a little bit, let me catch up,” said Papali’i. “He is in exceptional form and if he carries on I’d say he’s either the best or one of the best wingers in the world. He’s just got to keep doing what he’s doing.

“He’s a hard worker, and has the gifts to take it all the way. I’ve seen him grow on and off the field. He’s already one of the best or if not the best winger in the game, and he’s still getting better.”

Papali’i is searching for a complete performance from the Blues to gather some momentum going into the play-offs.

“We’ve got to put an 80-minute-plus game together. We tend to fall off during games,” said Papali’i. “We know that’s the problem and we’ve talked as leaders that we need to bring the boys in … we call it a grip moment, where we need to take it by the hands and execute.”

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