NRL: Big fella back on the bench

By Michael Brown

Forward Lousi out to make impression against Parramatta.

Warriors forward Sione Lousi is keen to show his skills after a season out of the NRL with injury. Photo / Getty Images
Warriors forward Sione Lousi is keen to show his skills after a season out of the NRL with injury. Photo / Getty Images

Last season was supposed to be a big one for Sione Lousi. But he ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in the opening pre-season game for the Warriors and spent the season in rehabilitation.

The 24-year-old had plans to consolidate his place in the Warriors side, having played 22 games in 2012, as well as designs on playing at the World Cup for Tonga.

"It was probably the toughest thing I have done in my footy career," he said. "Unfortunately, two teammates did their knees so I had a bit of company and it helped me get through it."

This year is shaping as another important one for Lousi, especially as he's off contract at the end of 2014, but he knows better than to look too far ahead. His immediate goal is making an impact off the bench in the Warriors' NRL opener against the Eels in Sydney on Sunday night.

He's part of one of the biggest benches in Warriors history, alongside Jacob Lillyman, Suaia Matagi and Feleti Mateo. It leaves them short of backline cover, but coach Matt Elliott is comfortable there are enough players who can slot into key positions if injury strikes.

Chad Townsend can play dummy-half and either Mateo or Carlos Tuimavave can slot into the halves.

"We are early in the season and we don't have a lot of match fitness under our belt," Elliott said. "The people who suffer most with match fitness are our big guys."

At 1.91m and 106kg, Lousi is a big guy. He's also powerful and dynamic.

After a couple of seasons playing as a prop - he has played 31 NRL games since his debut in 2010 - he's being seen as more of a second-rower and his utility value could be a considerable asset. He made a good impact in the final pre-season game against the Broncos and also at the recent Auckland Nines.

"I don't think they knew I had a sidestep," he said. "It brought a bit in my game people hadn't seen in a while.

"It's a bit weird having spent two seasons in the middle [as a prop] and coming back out to where all the fast players are. I'm adapting well. I don't mind where I play, I just want to make the [playing] 17 and then try to push into a starting spot somehow."

The Warriors are developing better depth in most positions and there's a growing logjam in the forwards.

Ben Henry is still to return to the mix after nearly a year out with a serious knee injury and there's also Charlie Gubb, Dominique Peyroux, David Bhana, Raymond Faitala-Mariner and brother Sam Lousi trying to work their way into the playing 17.

Crucially, Sione Lousi is impressing the right people.

"He can play second-row, front-row, lock," Elliott said. "Once he gets his knees fully mobile he could even play in the outside backs - he's that athletic. Did you see him play against the Broncos? He monstered some people."

Lousi admits he's still not as fit as he would like and it has been challenging to overcome the psychological scars of a serious injury. But they are not as difficult as what he endured last year.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 18 Sep 2014 16:53:21 Processing Time: 694ms