THE BOOTS maketh the footballer.
So said Brad 'Freddy' Fittler to Alby Talipeau after the Goodna star half wore a pair of $2 Puma Kings in his NRL debut for the Sydney Roosters back in 2000.
Alby was living more by the motto "if the shoe fits, wear it" at the time...particularly if it's cheap.
As the 36-year-old Talipeau prepares for the Ipswich A Grade grand final with Fassifern he reflected on fun times at the Roosters, where it all began.
It was May 20, 2000 and the Dragons were Talipeau's opponents.
"Before my debut against the Dragons I was pretty nervous," Talipeau recalls.
"I went to the shops because I had a split down the side of my footy boots.
"Back then, and still to this day, I was a bit of a tight arse when it comes to buying stuff for myself.
"So I went to this shop and they had this great special, a pair of Puma Kings for $2.
"I thought 'yes, I'm going to buy these'."
Alby played against St George in his cut-price boots and the Roosters won 32-24. He was telling his teammates about the great deal he got on his footwear in a jubilant dressing room when Fittler pricked up his ears.
"Freddy heard me and said 'What do you mean? You bought these for $2. They are so heavy'," Talipeau grins.
"Freddy carried three pairs of boots to every game so he gave them to me, but he was a size 12 and I am 11.
"I tried them on and they didn't fit so Freddy says 'tomorrow at rehab I will give you some boots'.
"The next day he gave me five pairs of size 11s Adidas boots, because he was sponsored by them.
"When he gave me the boots he said 'it is not the player, it is the boots that count. You need good quality boots for your kicking game to be at its best'."
Talipeau says Fittler always had time for the young players in the side.
"Freddy was great to me," he says.
"Because he was the captain and I was a rookie I got to room with him when I got up to first grade.
"He used to pass on his knowledge and tell me a lot of strories about what he got up to at Penrith...but they are stories I can't tell the QT."
Talipeau was recruited at 18 by Arthur Beetson when he was playing rugby union for De La Salle College in Cronulla.
"Artie asked me if I'd played league before and I said 'yes, I have'. Then two weeks later he came to my house and was very interested for me to play league.
"I was a fly-half and flanker and more interested in the Waratahs.
"Once Artie started to take an interest in me personally I was keen to play league. He was a very good man.
"Then Gus Gould and Freddy came along two weeks later and gave me all this gear."
That was that, and young Alby was off to the Tri-Colours.
He was only supposed to play Jersey Flegg but as an 18-year-old in 2000 received the call all aspiring footballers crave.
"Roosters coach Graham Murray called me and said 'I have picked you to play against St George this weekend but don't tell anyone'.
"I was good mates with (Dragons centre) Mark Gasnier and he was the only person I told, but I told him not to tell anyone.
"I rocked up to the game and Graham Murray called me over and said 'listen, I was speaking to some of the Dragons officials and somehow they know you are making your debut. Who did you tell?'"
Alby had to spill the beans about telling Gasnier and apologised to the coach.
"I only played 20 minutes off the bench at halfback," Alby recalls.
"At that stage Adrian Lam was ahead of me at halfback and Brad Fittler was the five-eighth."
Talipeau played three games of NRL in 2000 and made the top 25 squad the following season but in the first trial match did his ACL.
He played three games in 2001 at the back end of the season but the following year injured his knee again.
"The Roosters offered me an incentive deal for 2003 and my manager thought that was a low deal," he says.
"So he got me a train and trial contract at the Broncos. I played one game for Easts Tigers and snapped my tibia and fibia and was out for the entire year."
Talipeau signed on with Wakefield Trinity the following year and played in the 2004 English Super League.
Looking back now, Talipeau says the Roosters years taught him plenty.
"I learned a lot about professionalism and what you have to do to prepare yourself to play footy," he says.
"It is the start of the week that you prepare for a game, not the night before.
"I still try and implement that here at Goodna. I am always thinking about how to make myself better with the little extras that no-one else sees. Then you can go into a game knowing you are prepared."
So what ever happened to those $2 boots?
"I ended up taking those boots over to England and used them as spares," he grins.
"But I never wore them in a game again after Freddy gave me those boots. I just wore them in training. They were too heavy. They were like bricks. I wear Adidas boots now, and I have ever since I was at the Roosters."
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