NRL: Mara's name shouldn't be forgotten

By Daniel Richardson

Alehana Mara hasn't given up hope of forcing his way into the Warriors' No 9 jersey. Photo / Getty Images.
Alehana Mara hasn't given up hope of forcing his way into the Warriors' No 9 jersey. Photo / Getty Images.

Alehana Mara hasn't given up hope of forcing his way into the Warriors' No 9 jersey and would desperately love to play in May's NRL match against the Bulldogs in his hometown of Wellington.

With regular rake Nathan Friend's return to the pitch still up in the air because of a shoulder injury, the Warriors opted to play back-rower Elijah Taylor at hooker in the opening two rounds of the NRL season with mixed success.

Pita Godinet has provided energy from the bench out of dummy-half during the first two outings - both losses - and the Warriors recently pursued Travis Waddell before he was signed by the Newcastle Knights.

The wash-up of it all is Warriors' coach Matt Elliott is yet to settle on a No 9 and, although Taylor was named to meet the Sharks across the Tasman this Sunday, Mara hopes he's not far away from being given an opportunity.

Groin and shoulder injuries disrupted his pre-season campaign but he has played the past two games for the Auckland Vulcans, putting in his usual energetic 60-70 minute shift.

Mara said when he and Elliott first spoke they had differing views on what the 23-year-old could offer the side but they were clearer now.

Mara's performance during the Vulcans' 24-12 win over the Newtown Jets in the New South Wales Cup during the weekend must have also impressed Elliott.

"He wanted me to play like a certain style, be out there for 80 minutes and a tackle machine," Mara said of his earlier instructions.

"But that's not really my style. I'm more a play-off-the-cuff kind of guy. So he's came to me and, after the weekend's, he's like, 'I enjoyed the way you played, just keep doing what you're doing'."

Taylor's lack of spark out of dummy-half has been evident during the start of the Warriors' campaign and the livewire Mara, who has accumulated 16 NRL appearances since his debut in 2010, could be the change of pace they need to kickstart their season.

"I thought I had a good chance last year pre-season and that still hasn't changed and Matty just said straight up, 'if you're playing well you'll get picked'."

Mara was one of three Warriors players, alongside Ben Matulino and Simon Mannering, who were on promotional duties in Wellington today as they rolled out the hierarchy to plug their round nine clash against the Bulldogs at Westpac Stadium.

The May 11 game will mark the first time the Warriors have played an official home game in the capital and the Porirua born-and-bred Mara said it was a game he had marked on the calendar to get picked for.

"That's definitely one of my goals to achieve this year and hopefully I'm playing great footy by then and Matty can't go past me."

The former St George junior, who went to St Patrick's College in Kilbirnie, still has plenty of extended family in Wellington's northern suburbs but Mara said there would be one special guest in attendance if he got to lace up the boots at the Cake Tin.

"They'll definitely buy tickets to come and watch. It will be good to get along because then I'll get my grandpa along and he always gives me his honest opinion on how I play. If I don't play too well, he'll let me know."

- APNZ

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