NRL: Leuluai excited at turnaround

By David Skipwith

Returning utility credits coach Andrew McFadden for instilling confidence throughout the Warriors squad

Thomas Leuluai is confident he's ready to resume playing on Saturday. Picture / Getty Images
Thomas Leuluai is confident he's ready to resume playing on Saturday. Picture / Getty Images

Warriors utility Thomas Leuluai says he feels like he's coming back to a different club after a three-month injury layoff.

The 29-year old will make his return from a lingering groin injury in Saturday night's clash against the Brisbane Broncos and is happy to re-join a team that has won seven of their last nine encounters.

Leuluai says there is a huge difference between the Warriors team he trained with earlier in the year and the one he has returned to in recent weeks, and puts it down to a shift in attitude under coach Andrew McFadden.

"It's like I've signed for a new club really, to be honest, mid-season. The training sessions are a lot more intense and the detail of our game is a lot better, our attitude in defence is a lot better too. From a training session when I first was training with the boys at the start of the year to now is just completely different," Leuluai said.

"The results speak for themselves, he's [McFadden] been pretty fantastic.

I knew he'd turn us around. I always thought he was a great coach ever since I've been here and I knew he had great potential to be a head coach one day, but I think he's surprised everyone with how quickly he's done it."

Leuluai credits McFadden for instilling confidence throughout the squad and believes the Warriors have shown they are not reliant on any one player, while the club's depth has enabled them to get by without some of their regular starters and maintain their winning form.

"He's just turned us into a well-rounded team at the moment. We don't rely on anyone. Players have come out, the likes of Ben Matulino, Ngani Laumape, and the team just keeps ticking over which is a sign of a good squad and a well-coached team. When you're not relying on individuals, young guys come in and just slot in, [they] have to do the job and they get ... the results."

Leuluai is excited to be back in the side and says an extended recovery period has given him full confidence that he is ready to resume playing.

"I'm very grateful to get a shot this week. ... I had an operation so I know Cappy and the medical staff wouldn't let me have a crack if they didn't think I was right so I'm looking forward to it. The missus is happy I'm playing. She's sick of me being grumpy so she's most probably the one who's really happy."

Meanwhile, a hip injury to fullback Sam Tomkins has him in doubt to take the field against the Broncos.

Tomkins left training early yesterday when he was forced from the park clutching his hip-flexor.

With Kevin Locke now playing in England with Salford, Jerome Ropati six weeks into his retirement, Glen Fisiiahi out for the season with a shoulder injury and youngster Tuimoala Lolohea sidelined with a hamstring problem, the Warriors are short on fullback cover.

Winger David Fusitu'a filled in at fullback for the remainder of yesterday's session and looms as the likely replacement should Tomkins be ruled out but McFadden was non- committal. "We'll get to that. We haven't decided yet," he said.

- NZ Herald

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