Warriors youngster Tuimoala Lolohea would probably stroll into a spot in most NRL sides, but right now there just isn’t room for him in Andrew McFadden’s starting 13, forcing him to bide his time on the bench.
The Kiwi international is increasingly becoming a victim of his own versatility, having started 2016 on the wing before stints at both five-eighth and fullback, followed by a return to the right flank in recent weeks.
But with veteran winger Manu Vatuvei returning from injury, and 21-year-old backs Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu’a experiencing strong form, Lolohea was always going to be up against it to maintain a spot in the starting side for Saturday’s clash against Manly in Perth.
Tui Lolohea benched for the Warriors. Andrew McFadden is either trolling or taking the wrong medication. #NRLSharksWarriors
— Morgan Campbell (@M_Campbell23) June 25, 2016
His best position remains a mystery, but it’s unlikely to be off the bench, and mid-week McFadden said he remained unsure where Lolohea would be used against the Sea Eagles.
“Not sure how it’s going to pan out, we will have multiple plans for Tui, you just never know what is going to happen in a game,” McFadden said.
“I don’t think that will be the case [that he plays dummy-half], we have got Thomas Leuluai there who is flexible, he can play hooker and Tui can slot in there [at standoff] if we need to.
“It’s a difficult one, but he [Lolohea] is still very important to our side and that is why he is on the bench for us.
“I have got to pick the guys that are in form at the moment. It was a tough decision, an unlucky one for Tui.
“He understands it…I have always been pretty transparent in terms of the fact that you need to perform on the field, and he understands why it has been made.”
After a week off with the bye, the seventh-placed Warriors have two big inclusions for their trip to Western Australia, with Vatuvei and captain Ryan Hoffman – who have 495 first-grade appearances between them – returning to the line-up.
The week off was also a timely one for the health of superstar halfback Shaun Johnson, who had been playing through a quad injury for several weeks, which prevented him from goal kicking and restricted his work off the boot in general play.
“It’s been a nice break and a timely one for us; we had a couple of players who were just struggling with some niggles,” McFadden said.
“[Johnson probably won’t do] goal kicking at the moment, we are just building the load up in his leg.
“He is kicking the ball but obviously Issac [Luke] is kicking pretty well, so it gives us a bit of breathing space there.”