The prospect of being one of Parramatta’s oldest NRL players next year doesn’t sit well with Reni Maitua.
But the Eels forward is relishing the chance to be a leader in the squad once Nathan Hindmarsh and Luke Burt hang up their well-worn boots at season’s end.
The 29-year-old admits his return to the NRL last season after a two-year drug ban has been bittersweet given the Eels’ consistently poor performances and last placing on the ladder.
“I’ve been back a while now and frustration has started to creep in – no one wants to be in this position,” Maitua said.
“I certainly don’t want to have this year again next year.”
Although not wanting to put 2012 behind him just yet, Maitua is already looking ahead to next season for redemption.
And it all starts with Saturday’s match against ladder-leaders Melbourne.
“I think it’s extremely important that we go in the right direction over the next six weeks, not just starting on November 1 when we come back to (off-season) training,” he said.
“We’ve all had a frustrating year and there’s certainly things I’m looking forward to working on over the pre-season and moving into next year.
“Personally, I’ve got a feel for the players around me now and I’ve got some ideas of who I’d like to work with in regards to building combinations and things that might work for us.”
With his 30th birthday fast approaching and 12 months’ experience at the Eels under his belt, Maitua said it was inevitable that he’d be seen by his younger teammates as a leader in the absence of Hindmarsh and Burt.
“It’s sort of a responsibility you don’t want to have,” he said.
“I feel like sometimes I’m one of the youngest blokes in the team. I joke around and like to hang out with the younger boys.
“But it’s a time where you’ve got to realise that you’re being looked up to as a leader and that’s something I’m still working on.
“It’s also something that I’m actually looking forward to.”
Staying injury-free is Maitua’s top priority over the last seven rounds, as is avoiding the wooden spoon for the sake of his captain and mentor Hindmarsh.
“Hindy’s someone I’ve looked up to my whole career and a wooden spoon is not the way I want to send him out,” he said.
Maitua is contracted to the Eels until the end of 2013.