Tuimoala Lolohea was a backline Mr. Fix-it for the Warriors throughout 2015, plugging gaps wherever needed as injuries decimated the club’s playing stocks.
Far from a mere fill-in, however, Lolohea was brilliant in virtually every position he played, and was ultimately edged out for Dally M Rookie of the Year honours by Cronulla’s Jack Bird.
Lolohea, who notched three NRL appearance in 2014, alternated between fullback (10 games), centre (4) and wing (3) for most of the year, before slotting in at halfback for the final six games of the Warriors’ campaign following Shaun Johnson’s devastating injury.
Funnily enough, the regular spot he occupied at the Warriors’ NYC linchpin in 2013-14 – five-eighth – was the only backline position he did not start in during 2015.
The 20-year-old represented Tonga (at fullback) against Tonga in May, but won a New Zealand call-up for the tour of England and featured in the first Test loss at halfback. Lolohea made way for fellow rookie Kodi Nikorima for the remaining two matches, but his versatility marks him as a valuable long-term prospect for the Kiwis.
Lolohea was third on the Warriors’ try-scorers list with 11, while he chalked up 75 tackle breaks (second), eight line-breaks (fifth), 12 offloads (sixth), eight try assists (third) and an average of 106.6 metres (ninth).
The arrival of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Thomas Leuluai’s return from injury has left Lolohea’s 2016 position up in the air, but the form he showed this year dictates a place must be found for the powerful, fast and skilful youngster. Centre or wing shape as the most likely options, but Lolohea is also certain to be in the five-eighth mix.
Marvel at Lolohea’s 2015 exploits in this outstanding compilation by Jazza Bowler Productions.