Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Hurrell a puzzle piece that must be fitted in

Konrad Hurrell in action for the Warriors during the Auckland Nines. Photo / Getty
Konrad Hurrell in action for the Warriors during the Auckland Nines. Photo / Getty

It feels like Konrad Hurrell belongs in the Warriors 17 each week but how to fit him in will be an ongoing puzzle for coach Andrew McFadden.

Hurrell's display against the Knights was only a cameo, as he was on the field for 20 minutes and touched the ball less than a dozen times, but there was enough evidence of value.

His very first touch sent two defenders reeling, creating a quick play the ball that led to Tui Lolohea's try one tackle later. Hurrell made 73m from just six runs and had defenders on high alert every time he received the ball.

It's the kind of impact and wild card factor the Warriors missed in the first three rounds, especially in the arm wrestles against Brisbane and Melbourne.

But how will Hurrell be used?

Blake Ayshford and Solomone Kata are likely to be persevered with as a centre combination in the short term, with Kata continuing his good form of 2015 and Ayshford improving with every outing. McFadden will need a utility player on his bench, like a Jazz Tevaga or Thomas Leuluai, as well as forward cover. But maybe Hurrell offers both, as an impact player in the forwards and cover at centre or wing.

Certainly his status as a fan favorite is undimmed, evidenced by the huge ovation when he took the field in the 47th minute on Monday.

"It was a little bit of pressure but I tried to forget about it," admitted Hurrell. "The boys needed me."

Hurrell had an eventful spell, forced off the field for a period as the victim of an alleged chicken wing tackle by Newcastle's Nathan Ross before returning later in the half. It was symbolic of his stop-start career over the past 18 months, but the penny seems to have finally dropped for the 24-year-old. He is currently in career-best shape after a productive off-season.

"He was training the house down and looking in good shape," said winger Manu Vatuvei. "He deserved his chance and now he just has to keep backing it up."

Hurrell has matured, aware that this season could be his last chance after the club almost lost patience with him in 2015. One of the best offensive weapons in the NRL, his defensive application and overall work-rate wasn't deemed to be up to standard.

"For me it is about the same things - defence and securing the ball," said Hurrell. "Obviously I can run but holding onto the ball and doing effort after effort is the key.

"I'm happy to move up to play top side. I'm working on the stuff I need to work on so, when I get back there, I don't get dropped again. I've been taking my time, working on the little things, and now I am back in the top side."

Hopefully for a while.

- NZ Herald

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