Latu puts nervy battle to bed
Penrith's Leilani Latu has spoken about the nervy week at training he had to overcome before his man-of-the-match effort in the Panthers' four-point win over the Roosters last Monday night.
Latu was told earlier that week by coach Anthony Griffin that he would be starting for the first time in an NRL game in Round 7.
He said the revelation of knowing he'd be playing from the opening whistle had a profound mixed effect on his preparation but was thankful for his teammates for getting him through the week.
"When he told me in all honesty I was getting a bit nervous. I was dropping the ball heaps at training the whole week," Latu told NRL.com.
"The likes of 'Moyza' [Matt Moylan], 'Wal' [Peter Wallace], Jamie Soward and even Reagan Campbell-Gillard all tried to calm me down. They had to drum into me that starting wasn't anything different to what I had been doing.
"You could say it was a mental battle for me in the lead-up. I was battling a lot of nerves but I’m thankful for my family and my teammates, they all sort of calmed me down.
"When I finally got out there I was physically and mentally prepared to get through the game. I'm now just grateful I was given the opportunity to start. Hopefully there will be more to come after this."
Latu repaid the faith in the form of his 222 metres, two tackle breaks and 18 tackles against the Roosters and was duly rewarded with another starting berth against the Sharks this weekend.
The St Johns Eagles junior said he'll take plenty of confidence from his initial starting berth but believes it will do great things mostly in terms of how he prepares for games moving forward.
"What I'm trying to do now is trying to prepare better for games both mentally and physically so I'll take some confidence from it, but I'll be going back to the drawing board," Latu said.
"I'll be sure to ask coach what I can do and what I can improve on. Anthony Griffin always gives us the chance to challenge ourselves and each week we're trying to do that. We're all trying to impress him so we all just have to better ourselves each day."
Penrith is certainly a team beyond their years. Moylan as captain is only 24 and is leading a whole bunch of boys who are younger than that.
Latu, at 23, agrees the Panthers' squad is far more mature than what their age suggests and from a personal perspective thanks his veteran teammates for that.
"I'll always bring [our maturity] back to the experienced players in our group who have given us a level head and always keep our feet grounded," Latu said.
"Jeremy Latimore is a big one for me. Even Suaia Matagi. They have taken aside some of us youngsters and repeated what Anthony Griffin has told us. Keep our heads down, don't make any noise and when you get picked do all your talking on the field."