May as well make the most of it
Viliame Kikau scored on debut in Penrith’s Round Two win over the Wests Tigers.
As did Corey Harawira-Naera two rounds later in Penrith’s big home win over Newcastle.
And so did Penrith's latest NRL debutant Tyrone May, who scored on debut three rounds back that helped the Panthers defeat the New Zealand Warriors.
His NRL opportunities might look limited to covering for the on-going absence of regular five-eighth and skipper Matt Moylan (hamstring).
But the latest member of the victorious 2015 Holden Cup side to make his NRL debut, says his selection in the top grade has exceeded all expectations set for the 2017 season.
“I thought I might have come off the bench and maybe play a utility role at best but I still can’t believe it actually,” May told Nepean News.
“I certainly would not have told you I was going to do that (make my debut at five-eighth) but it’s a dream come true.”
Apart from five-eighth, May has played numerous positions thus far in the Intrust Super Premiership including fullback, centre, lock, back-row and hooker.
But NRL coach Anthony Griffin’s decision to put his faith in the Junior Kangaroo as Moylan’s five-eighth replacement has inspired May to continue focusing on playing in the halves for now despite conceding his future may ultimately lie in the forwards.
“It is exciting that Hook has shown a lot of faith in me and I’m just trying to repay that faith by doing my job week in week out,” May declared.
“I thank him and the rest of the coaching staff for giving me these opportunities and I’m trying to take them with both hands.
“I’ll play five-eighth for as long as I can for now.
“I grew up playing as a halfback but I got a bit too big for my body so the transition to lock and back-row might happen sooner rather than later in my career.”
May’s debut was especially special given he was reunited with good mate Nathan Cleary, having previously partnered with the Panthers half at SG Ball and Holden Cup levels.
“Nathan’s as cool as a cucumber really so you don’t really get nervous,” May said.
“You look at him and see everything that he does, he’s a real calming influence.
“I’ve played with Nathan a few times, in SG Ball and 20’s.
“We kind of know each other’s game and it just comes naturally.”
Tyrone May photos: 77 Media.
May admits his role in the team has been simplified by Griffin to focus on holding his own in defence, with Cleary entrusted with much of the game management responsibilities.
That need to be defensively focused proved telling as he handled two of the NRL’s better back-rowers in Bodene Thompson and Josh Jackson with aplomb, the latter just weeks after cheering him on as an Origin player.
“He’s always telling me to try and focus on my defence really and the rest will just come naturally,” May replied.
“I had Bodene Thompson and then Josh Jackson as the back-rowers running at me hence it was mainly defence focused.
“The attack will slowly come the more games I play.
“I was cheering Josh Jackson on in Origin (recently) and now I got to play against him which was crazy.
“Josh is pretty solid, he’s like tackling a rock but everyone’s pretty big on the field.”
Many young players in May’s situation would be impatient enough to look elsewhere for further opportunities.
But May, who is contracted until the end of 2018, is prepared to bide his time in the Intrust Super Premiership and learn as much as he can from the likes of Moylan as well as club legend, Greg Alexander.
“If I go back to NSW Cup I have to make sure I’m running the ball and keeping my game up the best I can,” May declared.
“I’ve just got to try and play my best footy week in week out and if my time will come, my time will come but I have just got to keep plugging away.
“Moylan’s been a massive help to me and if I’m playing first grade, Brandy (Alexander) will come help me, especially with my kicking.”