NRL: Leuluai keen to find his spot

By Michael Brown

Thomas Leuluai wants to find his place in the Warriors' starting lineup and that could come in the pack. Photo / Getty
Thomas Leuluai wants to find his place in the Warriors' starting lineup and that could come in the pack. Photo / Getty

Thomas Leuluai wants to find his place in the Warriors' starting lineup, and the most likely destination is at five-eighth, but the possible suspension of Sione Lousi offers an interesting opportunity.

Lousi was charged with a grade two dangerous throw offence for a tackle he made on Wests Tigers back-rower Cory Paterson in last weekend's big 42-18 win. The Warriors have entered a guilty plea but disputed the grading - Elliott questioned whether it was even a penalty immediately afterwards - and Lousi's case will be heard in Sydney tomorrow night.

"We're naturally hoping Sione will be free to play for us against the Sharks," Elliott said.

Feleti Mateo, who is named on an extended bench after missing the Tigers game with a knee injury, is the most likely replacement if Lousi is suspended - he will collect a three-match ban if his appeal is unsuccessful - but Leuluai looms as an interesting option.

On Saturday, he played his first game since injuring his groin at last year's World Cup. The 28-year-old started on the bench and had expected to see time at dummy-half, but found himself playing back-row.

The early injury to Jerome Ropati (broken jaw) meant Konrad Hurrell slotted into the centres and Leuluai was needed in the middle of the park - a role Hurrell had been slated for and did so effectively against the Cowboys.

It was the first time Leuluai had ever played as a loose forward but his approach wasn't too dissimilar to a combination of five-eighth and hooker. On attack he was like another playmaker, often acting as first or second receiver, and on defence he was like a hooker. He's both adaptable and tough enough to do both and Mateo's form has so far been uninspiring.

"I wasn't expecting to play in the middle [against the Tigers] but with Jerome getting injured it was what the team needed," Leuluai said. "Obviously I want to find my spot in the team wherever that may be but at the moment it's about me getting some match fitness and testing my body.

"It was pretty easy [with three playmakers on attack]. We have a pretty simple game plan and it falls into place."

The Warriors will take on the Sharks who sit bottom of the ladder - the only winless team - and haven't won at Shark Park since 2010. They were hammered 28-4 there last year.

The Sharks will still be without Paul Gallen (ankle) and Luke Lewis (shoulder) but have plenty of firepower with the likes of Todd Carney and Andrew Fifita.

Hurrell replaced Ropati at centre for the Warriors in the only change to the starting side. Sebastine Ikahihifo is set to come into the playing 17 if Lousi drops out and back-rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner has been included on an extended bench.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 22 Dec 2014 17:25:58 Processing Time: 478ms