David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Tui Lolohea needing confidence boost

Tui Lolohea. Photo / Getty
Tui Lolohea. Photo / Getty

A mixed performance from Warriors youngster Tui Lolohea in Saturday's golden point win over Penrith showed he still has some way to go before fulfilling his undoubted potential as an NRL star.

In his return to fullback after a game on the right wing and three appearances off the bench in the last four matches, Lolohea was a constant threat on attack but was found wanting in his positional play in defensive situations during the second-half.

The 21-year-old initially lost his No1 jersey to the equally versatile David Fusitu'a for the round 16 game against Cronulla, after being told he needed to improve his urgency and positioning on defence.

Those issues became apparent as the match wore on with Lolohea committing two errors as the Panthers began to fight their way back from 16-8 to draw level in the last quarter.

Twice the one-test Kiwis international had to sprint to try and diffuse attacking kicks, spilling one midfield bomb from Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary and putting a foot into touch when hooker Peter Wallace attempted a 40-20.

Warriors assistant coach Justin Morgan admitted Lolohea had further improvement in him after enduring a tumultuous month fighting his way back into the side.

"Tui's most probably down on a little bit of confidence at the moment," said assistant coach Justin Morgan.

"He's still a little bit indecisive about a few things but he still made a few really good darting runs which was great.

"We still need to work on his defensive play a little bit, ensuring that he's in the right position for kicks and so forth but that will come with time. We have to be patient."

Lolohea was eager to get involved in the first half, looking dangerous around the ruck and out wide, while coming close to scoring off a Shaun Johnson banana kick to the ingoal.

A sign of his lack of urgency at vital times came when the Warriors were receiving the kick-off following Issac Luke's penalty goal in the 63rd minute.

Lolohea and right wing Ken Maumalo were reluctant to collect the bouncing ball as it skidded to a halt before prop Albert Vete eventually picked it up in front of the rapidly advancing Panthers defence.

Lolohea was not alone in failing to act quickly or instinctively and it did not result in a mistake but it reduced the Warriors ability to start the set on the front foot.

Morgan was reluctant to criticise Lolohea's performance but said his mixed display was indicative of the fact he is only 43 games into his NRL career.

While his broken field running and ability to beat the best defenders is almost without peer, he is still finding his feet in the week to week grind of the NRL.

There is next to no doubt that he will be able to refine his game and realise his full ability but expectations around his performance should be more measured at this early stage.

"Tui's still learning the game," he said. "You wouldn't call him a rookie but he's not a 120 game veteran. He's still learning his trade a little bit.

"Offensively he did some good things for us and no doubt (there's) a few little subtleties on structure and shape that he'll most probably need to address this week.

"But it was a good stepping stone for him and I'm sure that he'll be happy to get that game out of the way and look to make some improvement over the next few weeks."

- NZ Herald

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