Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Chance for stand in half to create winning beat

Pita Godinet.  Photo / Getty Images
Pita Godinet. Photo / Getty Images

He's a part-time DJ, a prolific user of social media and could be the surprise key man for the Warriors.

As they head towards their opening game against Parramatta next Saturday, Pita Godinet is likely to be one of the men in the spotlight.

With Shaun Johnson expected to be out for at least two rounds, Godinet is currently the favourite to partner Thomas Leuluai in the halves. He's a name unfamiliar to many fans but has stepped up before and impressed in his second-half appearance in Dunedin last week. Though he took a secondary role to Leuluai, he organised his team-mates well and expertly laid on two tries.

"I just wanted to do my job and hopefully be an impact for the boys and I did that," says Godinet of last week. "I was quite surprised with myself as well. I've always known I've had it in my game to play NRL but it is probably getting that opportunity and trying to hold a spot."

Godinet is a softly spoken type who has been on the fringes of the NRL side since 2011, making eight appearances.

Nicknamed 'Pita-gram' for his constant use of photo-sharing site Instagram, Godinet's passion is music. He can be found most Fridays spinning the decks at a central Auckland bar and says his repertoire is everything from R & B, soul, classical and blues.

While the injury to Johnson is bad timing for everyone in the franchise, Godinet sees an opportunity: "We are here to give the coaches a headache. We want to keep them on their toes and keep the elite players on their toes as well. With Shaun out and a couple of the other boys, there could be a spot I could cement; I'll push for it, definitely, if the opportunity is there."

There was an interesting point of difference in Dunedin. In the first half, Todd Lowrie looped around Johnson to create an overlap on the blindside. The halfback took a low percentage option, an ambitious kick for Manu Vatuvei which went dead. In the second half, Lowrie made the same run, this time outside Godinet, who ran to the line to draw defenders before putting Lowrie through the hole.

It was an example of the composure the 25-year-old has gained in his long apprenticeship. A product of Christchurch, he was close to making the inaugural Warriors Toyota Cup team for the 2008 season but his December birthday just ruled him out. He eventually made the Vulcans team and was a stand-out in 2010 (player of the year) and 2011.

He eventually made his NRL bow in round 20 of 2011 (scoring a try on debut) but was almost paralysed by nerves, barely being able to sleep in the days leading up to the game.

"I still get the nerves but it's much better," laughs Godinet. "From coming in and out of NRL games I know the feeling; I've already had a taste - now I need to cement a spot. I'm a player that likes to play what's in front of me, play by play, but I have to learn to play the whole set. I can learn a lot from Thomas Leuluai - he's good at spotting momentum shifts and game management."

Godinet has focused on strength and weight gain over the off-season and says he feels much stronger. As well as developing his long kicking game, coping with the physicality of the NRL is the other question mark over Godinet. He's tough but, at 1.77m and 84kg, is on the small side in the land of the giants.

"My mindset says I am okay to play NRL but the body sometimes can't cope with the heavier boys that run through," says Godinet.

"I know I need a couple more kilos to cope. The NRL is a lot faster, a lot more technical and it's on a bigger stage."

- Herald on Sunday

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