NRL: Muscled-up Lillyman is hungry for action

By Steve Deane

Jacob Lillyman was injured 10 minutes into the Warriors' first pre-season trial match. Photo / Getty Images.
Jacob Lillyman was injured 10 minutes into the Warriors' first pre-season trial match. Photo / Getty Images.

Having been more than a touch flaky this season, the Warriors will welcome back with open arms the ball of granite that is Jacob Lillyman for tonight's showdown with the high-flying Broncos.

The Queensland Origin prop hasn't played this season thanks to a nasty pre-season injury just minutes into the club's first trial match against the Gold Coast at North Harbour Stadium.

"February 4 - I remember the date well - it has been a long time," Lillyman recalls rather ruefully. "I had a great pre-season and was raring to go and for that all to be tipped on its head 10 minutes into the first trial game was very disheartening. I have clawed my way back. It has been a long road."

He had attempted to lift a Gold Coast player while Sam Rapira and Nathan Friend were pulling him down. If the size of the weights he lobs around the club's gym are anything to go by, Lillyman is one of the stronger Warriors. However not even he was a match for the combined strength of three players, with his biceps tendon shearing away from his forearm.

"Honestly, I could feel it tear away. It completely ruptured it - it certainly didn't tickle. I knew straight away so I didn't bother to try to play on."

Already deprived of the services of senior forward Micheal Luck, the team could ill-afford the loss of another vital cog from the engine room. Coach Brian McClennan put on a brave face, however there was little doubt it was a major setback.

Lillyman will never be a flashy type. He is, however, utterly dependable. And, having packed a heap of muscle on to what was once a classical back rower's frame, he is now also an imposing physical presence. Almost as importantly, he is one of the club's better communicators.

It's hard to imagine the team would have lost its way quite as badly in defeats to the Roosters and Raiders had Lillyman and Luck been present.

"We have got a lot of young guys and a few guys who don't like to say too much," Lillyman said. "So the senior guys like me, Lucky and Simon take it upon ourselves to lift the level of talk. It's amazing how many problems you can solve. It is massively important."

After a significant form reversal garnered a win over the Rabbitohs and another lift in intensity in the Anzac Day defeat in Melbourne, the Warriors appeared to be tracking in the right direction, he said.

"There are some really good signs there. I knew it was going to take a while for us to hit our straps, with the new coach coming in, a new set up and a few new players. But there is certainly a truckload of talent there and the last two games we have taken some really big steps forward.

"When we were going through that rough patch we went away from doing what we do best and how we put away a lot of teams last year. That was running hard, coming on to the ball with a bit if speed and gaining that ascendancy in the middle."

With Sam Rapira having succumbed to an ankle injury that will keep him out for up to three weeks, Lillyman's return is timely. He hasn't, however, been handed the most comfortable of assignments against a Broncos side riding a six-match win streak.

"Right across the park they have got genuine speedsters and guys who are good at beating those one-on-one tackles so we are certainly going to have to work together as a defensive unit. There are a lot of players we have to nullify and gaining that ascendancy in the middle will go a long way to doing it."

With the first Origin match still 18 days away, Lillyman has time to stake his claim for a Queensland jumper. But he isn't expecting to hit top form immediately and insists he hasn't given Origin a second thought.

"I honestly haven't thought about it. I think that is probably raising the bar a little bit too high at this stage. I'll just get back on the park for the Warriors and concentrate on playing well for them."

•The Warriors will play against the Manly Sea Eagles in Perth on July 28.

The Sea Eagles opted to take the 2011 grand final rematch to Perth to support league in Western Australia and enhance the club's financial position.

Warriors v Broncos
Mt Smart Stadium, 7.30 tonight

Jerome Ropati
Bill Tupou
Ben Henry
Konrad Hurrell
Manu Vatuvei
James Maloney
Shaun Johnson
Russell Packer
Nathan Friend
Ben Matulino
Elijah Taylor
S Mannering (c)
Feleti Mateo

Interchange (from): Jacob Lillyman, Lewis Brown, Ukuma Ta'ai, Sione
Lousi, Pita Godinet.

Josh Hoffman
Gerard Beale
Jack Reed
Justin Hodges
Dale Copley
Corey Norman
Peter Wallace
Ben Hannant
A McCullough
Petero Civoniceva
Alex Glenn
S Thaiday (c)
Corey Parker

Interchange: Ben Hunt, Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett, Ben Te'o.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 28 Dec 2014 11:15:32 Processing Time: 577ms