Ask Ken Maumalo about the bruising, physical aspect of his job and there's an immediate glint in his eye.

The Warriors winger takes a fearless approach to his sport, involved in a series of massive collisions as he pounds into the opposition defensive line.

It takes a toll, but Maumalo isn't complaining.

"I love it," said Maumalo. "It feels great. That's the thing you live for and look forward to."


But how does it feel, as he braces just before contact, with three or four defenders, including some huge forwards, lining up to smash him.

"That's the challenge," said Maumalo. "If they can keep doing it every time I run, then credit to them."

In a season of ups and downs, where the Warriors forward pack has often struggled to dominate their opposites, Maumalo has gone to another level.

He's been one of the Warriors' key players, with his ability to deliver momentum at the start of a set.

The 24 year old has topped 150 running metres in six (of nine) rounds this year, and has already crossed for seven tries, equalling the most he has scored in an entire season.

Ken Maumalo of the Warriors celebrates a try. Photo / Photosport
Ken Maumalo of the Warriors celebrates a try. Photo / Photosport

The portents were good from round one, when he ran for 199 metres and scored an impressive try against the Bulldogs, showing skill and poise to adeptly ground a Blake Green chip.

He has continued in that vein, with the high point coming against the Melbourne Storm in round seven. With regulars David Fusitu'a and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck both scratched due to injury, Maumalo was irrepressible with 27 runs for 229 metres.

"I knew I had to step up," said Maumalo. "I was the only one left of the regular back three, I knew I had to pick up my game and really carry the boys."


Maumalo's breakout season had its genesis on the Kiwis tour to England last November.

Not only was the overall experience a major boost for his confidence, but he worked tirelessly to improve his ability under the high ball, with extra sessions before and after training, with coach Michael Maguire and teammate Jordan Rapana.

"It was something I worked on in camp for almost six weeks," said Maumalo. "It was getting to the point where my Achilles and calves were getting sore … but I still had to get those reps in to be better."

Maumalo was also determined to avoid the typical post-tour hangover, caused by an abbreviated pre-season.

"A lot of people who come back from tours start the season slowly and that was the challenge for me," said Maumalo. "'Mooks' (Stephen Kearney) sat me down and said you need to be better this year…focus on the fundamentals."

Ken Maumalo. Photo / Photosport
Ken Maumalo. Photo / Photosport

Kearney has noted Maumalo's ongoing dedication to improvement.

"He's someone where you give him the information and he takes it all in," said Kearney. "[On tour] he had the opportunity to learn from the best of the best, or just go away and roll along, and not observe and take in and get the learning from the quality that is around you."

Maumalo is in his fifth year of first grade, but it hasn't been a straightforward journey.

He was stuck behind Manu Vatuvei for the first two seasons, before cementing his spot in 2017.

But even that campaign, where the Warriors only won seven games, had its challenges.

"In 2017 there were times when we could have quite easily put him back to reserve grade," said Kearney. "But I knew that it wasn't going to help his development; I'd rather you have a go, take the learning and get it wrong … than go back and play where he wasn't going to get the learning."

Second tier football is inconceivable now, as Maumalo has been superb over the last month, even improving his defensive capabilities.

"The last three or four weeks have been pretty good games for Ken," said Kearney. "He had some really important defensive reads [last] weekend. That is part of wanting to be one of the best wingers in the competition - always striving to find ways to be better."