Hailing from the Chatham Islands, Brendon Tuuta played much of his junior rugby in the Canterbury region of New Zealand before treading the well-worn path of young Kiwis to the ARL in Sydney. There he signed for Western Suburbs and played for them for two seasons, sharing the loose forward role with Ellery Hanley. In the summer of 1989 he made his test debut for New Zealand against Australia, whacked Wally Lewis, and his hot-head “baby-faced assassin” reputation was firmly established in the Sydney press. It was something Brendon himself never liked as, although no-one who ever saw him play would accuse him of lacking aggression or enthusiasm, there was far more to his game than this lazy ‘hit-man’ image the media had created for him.
Brendon arrived at Featherstone in the autumn of 1990, already known to English fans for his performances on the 1989 Kiwi tour, not least against Rovers themselves when the Kiwis won 44-20. Initially signed on a short-term off-season contract, his impact at Featherstone and his rapid adaptation to local life was such that this short sojourn became a five year love affair with the club and its fans.
Smaller in stature than the majority of rugby league forwards, Brendon always ran and tackled well about his weight and enjoyed nothing better than being in the thick of the action. His fearless disregard for his own well-being in the cause of the team was what ultimately endeared him to the fans. When Rovers were surprisingly relegated in 1992, writer Dave Hadfield memorably described the following Divison1 season without Brendon Tuuta like “a hotdog without the mustard”. As a ball handler, he was also a skilful distributor and line breaker as extended spells at stand-off attest. On such occasions the loose forward shirt was filled by Ian Smales, Tim Sharp and later Neil Roebuck. His tackling style inevitably led to occasional red cards and suspensions, an occupational hazard for such a combative character.
Having helped the club back into the top flight and played at old Trafford in the Premiership Final, Tuuta came close to a Wembley appearance in 1995 when we were beaten at the semi-final hurdle by Leeds. All good things come to an end, and when Rovers were compulsorily demoted that summer, Brendon moved on, firstly to Castleford where he spent three seasons, then a further year at Warrington. Having decided to retire at the end of the 1998 season, he was persuaded to give one last year to his favourite club, and played the 1999 season with the same infectious enthusiasm with which he always played. After retiring, he was elected to the Featherstone Rovers Hall of Fame. He played a total of 177 games for Rovers, and scored 32 tries. He also won 16 New Zealand caps, the majority of them as a Rovers player.