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Keith Lulia, the young veteran

Keith Lulia, the young veteran
Wests Tigers centre Keith Lulia scored 22 tries in 54 games for the Bradford Bulls. Copyright: NRL Photos/Grant Trouville. Credit: NRL Photos/Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos/Grant Trouville.

The players are faster, they warned. The game has gotten quicker, they promised. Rugby league, apparently, had transformed into a young man's game back home in Australia. 

At 26 years of age, Wests Tigers centre Keith Lulia is hardly a glorified veteran, yet he's already being treated like one. 

The former Bradford Bull realised as much the day new teammate Tim Simona reminded him that the Tigers had pipped the ex-Knight in a classic Leichhardt thriller three years ago in his debut game. 

"I can't remember, that's why he reminded me about it. His memory's better than mine," Lulia told 

"He remembers because we were actually up against each other."

Lulia kicked off his career at the Dragons in 2011, switched for three more in Newcastle before moving overseas in what was commonly known as the last pay cheque before retirement – a stint in the Super League, where he spent a year under current coach Mick Potter at the Bradford Bulls. 

The Cook Islands World Cup representative spent one more season in the freezing temperatures of England before he decided that he'd had enough. 

"My decision was to come back to Australia because it was too cold over in England," he said. "I had a little kid over there, I wanted to come back home and Mick gave me the opportunity. 

"He coached me at Bradford and he gave me the opportunity to come back here and I just took it with open arms. I just wanted to live in Australia and back in the NRL as well." 

Little did he know that in becoming a father for the first time, he would be a metaphorical one to a prodigious bunch in Concord as well. 

"I haven't been in a team that's been dominated mainly by kids around 21, 20 years old. They're all just thinking they're invincible. But it's working for us, you know what I mean? Hopefully they don't switch off at the wrong time," he said. 

"Being more experienced, you know when you need to do the little things, when you need to push up. 

"I remember when I was young, I did all the little things wrong. I just switched off at the wrong time. Definitely, if you're experienced with the speed back then and with it faster now, it helps out a lot more." 

Both Lulia and his young protege were named to take on the Warriors in Wellington this afternoon, only for the Simona to be ruled out with concussion, opening the door for Chris Lawrence to return from a hamstring injury. 

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