Warriors eye dual dummy-half tactics
Warriors coach Andrew McFadden's decision this week to shift Tuimoala Lolohea into five-eighth effectively confirms his 2016 plans for not only the halves, but also the club's hooking rotation.
With Lolohea named at No.6 for Saturday's game against the Bulldogs in Wellington – and McFadden confirming his commitment to it being a long-term move – it all but ends speculation about where experienced playmaker Thomas Leuluai fits into the puzzle.
With no room in the halves and Issac Luke set to remain the starting hooker for the Warriors, Leuluai is now likely to play a bench utility role for the rest of the year barring any injuries to the club's spine.
"You never know how things pan out, but how we used Thomas on the weekend (off the bench as both a lock and hooker) is probably the way we will continue to use him," McFadden confirmed mid-week.
"He will probably get a bit more game time at dummy-half as well at some point.
"Thomas gives us a lot of flexibility as well because he can play a number of positions, he can play lock as well.
"There might be a time when both of them are on the field and working hand-in-hand [at hooker]."
The dual dummy-half tactic has been used to good effect by Wayne Bennett and the Broncos this year, with starting rake Andrew McCullough remaining on the field to play a middle forward role when fellow hooker Kodi Nikorima enters the game from the interchange bench.
According to Leuluai it's a style which could become more widespread in the NRL as teams learn to deal with the reduction in interchanges and the best ways to cover for players lost under the new head knock rules.
"I was playing as a lock or middle unit last weekend, we have done it a few times with the Kiwis in the past," Leuluai told NRL.com.
"I am more there just for backup in case there are injuries to key positions, but we will see where Cappy (McFadden) goes, he has talked about playing me though the middle or maybe giving Issac a rest if he needs it.
"Issac will be the dummy-half even when we are both on, but I will jump in when needed and then play through the middle as a loose forward.
"It's something they are trying out in the NRL a bit right now, obviously you need someone on the bench who can cover lots of positions in case there are injuries.
"It's becoming an interesting topic at the moment with the interchange changes and the head knock rules."
Last week, in his first game back from a ruptured ACL suffered in Round 10 last year, Leuluai made a solid impact off the bench, playing 31 minutes and running four times for 64 metres in addition to making a line break in the 34-18 loss to the Sea Eagles.