David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Tui Lolohea to regain confidence in reserve grade

The door has not been closed on Tui Lolohea making a return to first grade this season but Warriors coach Andrew McFadden hopes he will regain his confidence playing in the halves in reserve grade.

Lolohea was dropped for this weekend's crucial game against the Cowboys in Townsville after he was exposed at fullback in last week's 44-21 defeat to the Rabbitohs.

The versatile 21-year-old is a gifted runner capable of punishing teams when presented with open space on kick returns and in broken play however fullback is not his preferred position.

The one-test Kiwis international will instead wear the number six jersey for the club's Intrust Super Premiership side's home game against Mounties on Saturday.

McFadden was noncommittal when asked if Lolohea was destined to finish the last three rounds in reserve grade but believes he will quickly regain his confidence playing in the more familiar halves role.

"I hope not," said McFadden.

"He's a terrific player and I still believe that.

"The responsibility of a fullback has been pretty tough on him.

"The pressure of this competition is tough enough but at fullback there's nowhere to hide.

"Tui's best position is in the halves and to get his confidence back he needs to feel comfortable."

Lolohea is perhaps a victim of his own attacking brilliance and versatility, with fans and critics expectations outweighing his NRL experience, despite looking comfortable slotting into every position through the backline in his 46 first grade outings.

His fullback deficiencies were highlighted when he was caught out of position on several occasions by South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds' pinpoint kicking before being replaced 14 minutes into the second-half.

McFadden said Lolohea had taken his demotion on the chin and is well aware he needs to improve aspects of his defensive game.

"I think he feels it in himself that he's not there," he said.

"He's not going out on the field to really grab it. He's hesitating. That just comes from confidence and belief when you're in a foreign position.

"He wouldn't be the first person to have a spell in this sort of scenario. You get experienced players that have form drops so he just needs to get his confidence up and I'm very confident he'll bounce back."


Halfback Shaun Johnson sympathised with Lolohea's predicament having gone through similar struggles earlier in his career.

Johnson recalled his own anguish at being dragged from the field in the second-half of the Warriors 62-6 loss to Penrith back in 2013 and said it was a bitter pill to swallow.

The 26-year-old is sure Lolohea will quickly rediscover his best form and said he could only move forward and attempt to learn from the experience.

"I know he'd be taking it pretty heavy," said Johnson.

"He's probably never been in this situation where he's been left out of a side or pulled from the field.

"It happened to me around the same time in my career when I got pulled from the field and it was hard to take.

"You've got to quickly put it behind you and look to learn and look at the areas that you need to improve on.

"Everyone knows the talent he has. We all believe in him 100 per cent but he's got some things he needs to work on. He's aware of it and I'm sure this little period will be better for him."

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