NRL: Ropati hopes to get up to speed quickly

Jerome Ropati. Photo / Greg Bowker.
Jerome Ropati. Photo / Greg Bowker.

Warriors centre Jerome Ropati thinks his body is at about 95 per cent but his mind needs a bit more rehabilitation after an extended period away with injury.

The 27-year-old has made a tentative return from a serious knee injury. He lasted 20 minutes in the season opener against Manly before injuring his ankle and then produced a scratchy performance in last weekend's defeat to the Bulldogs when he felt he was one of the main reasons for falling behind 16-0 early in the game.

"I think I was the main problem in the first half last week," he said.

It was an honest appraisal from an honest individual. Ropati has been through a lot in his NRL career and some of it hasn't been enjoyable - 132 first-grade games isn't that many when you consider he made his NRL debut in 2003.

The last 12 months have been "long and arduous" as he recovered from a serious knee injury that put him out for most of 2011.

Some might call him injury prone, others would put it down to bad luck, but he's hopeful his latest comeback is an enduring one.

"It's 95 per cent," he said of his knee. "It's a matter of getting a few more games so I can keep up with the pace. At the moment I'm just behind the pace a step or two. Hopefully on Saturday [against the Titans] I will make up for it.

"The mind is a challenge.

"[The two games this season] weren't what I had hoped but I don't expect to set the world on fire. I have to re-train myself to get into the right defensive systems and that's all it was. My defence was terrible but everything else I was happy with."

He was certainly better by the end of the game against the Bulldogs, much like the rest of the Warriors, and they need Ropati to find form quickly.

As much as Konrad Hurrell and Ben Henry look players of the future, they are not yet complete players of the present. Centre is a crucial position and Ropati is a good one when in form.

He's a renowned try-scorer - he once scored four tries in one game against the Roosters in 2006 - and versatile. In his Warriors career he has played centre, five-eighths, lock, wing and fullback and he even played hooker for the Kiwis.

It's why his defensive errors last weekend stood out because Ropati is normally a player teammates and coaches can rely on.

The way he goes over coming weeks will go a long way to determining whether the club offer him a new deal to stay at Mt Smart Stadium - he's off contract at the end of the season.

"Jerome had a good blowout on Sunday and, at the back end of his game, he started to get stronger with his carries so he will scrub up really well from playing that 80 minutes," coach Brian McClennan said.

The Warriors as a whole need to scrub up against the Titans tomorrow night after a poor start to their season. One win from three isn't the sort of record last year's beaten grand finalists had hoped for.

They have played very well at times but have started poorly in all three games to leave themselves too much to do.

Saturday's game represents Simon Mannering's 100th NRL game and 50th as Warriors captain and prop Sam Rapira is a 50-50 chance of playing.

The Titans come into the game with an identical one win, two loss record but are facing up to questions about their long-term survival because of rising debts.

- APNZ

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