Peta Hiku has become the Warriors' 'Mr Fix-It' but the backline utility admitted his tackling needs work ahead of today's NRL clash against Manly in Christchurch.
The versatile 25-year-old has played at centre, fullback and five-eighth in the last three matches and will return to the No 1 role against his old club at AMI Stadium, with Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck ruled out with an ankle injury. The Kiwi international has a knack of evading defenders and is solid as a rock under pressure, but his work off the ball needs attention with 51 missed tackles ranking him among the worst defenders in the NRL.
The reasons behind his defensive lapses are a bit of a mystery, as Hiku was never considered a liability during previous stints at Manly and Penrith, or in 10 test outings in the black and white jersey.
But the Manurewa Marlins junior revealed his defensive mindset has been clouded this season and admits his tackling remains a work in progress.
"It's something I'm always having to work on at training and that's one of my big goals, to improve my defence," said Hiku.
"The way I've defended and the way I go into contact has changed a lot to previous years. I'm just overthinking things and I've got to go back to making a decision and backing myself with what I need to do.
"If I make a read I just have to go for it, instead of making a half-read and thinking about what else the opposition are throwing at us and slipping off someone.
"So it's something I've been looking at and hopefully it can change."
Coach Stephen Kearney is a big fan of Hiku's natural ability and football nous and is satisfied with the effort he is making to improve his tackling. "He's got technical issues there that we need to work with," said Kearney.
"I know everyone has got areas of their game that need work so that's one area that he needs to improve. And that's what we're here for as coaches, is to give him an awareness of that and he has to buy into fixing it and improving it."
Hiku is one of the most popular players at the Warriors, but his teammates take great pleasure in ribbing him about his uncomplicated nature.
Kearney chuckled when asked how Hiku has coped with the changing demands of playing different positions, but behind the humour there is a clear appreciation of what he brings to the side.
"I don't ask him. The more you tell him about the detail probably the more confused he gets, so I reckon the less he knows the better," said Kearney. "But I do find him [unflappable]. He's a lot smarter footy-wise than he puts out. He's been a part of good teams, so he's pretty aware and has good footy knowledge."
Hiku is happy to fill in wherever required but feels comfortable at fullback where he learned to play as a youngster. "I don't mind the chopping and changing," said Hiku.
"Fullback is the next best option for me after centre. If I was to play in the halves again I'd want a whole week's preparation for it because it is a much different position and there's a lot more to take in."