Maumalo out to reward McFadden's faith
After ousting Kiwi international Tuimoala Lolohea for the right wing spot at the Warriors, Ken Maumalo said his confidence was at an all-time high ahead of Saturday's clash against Manly in Perth.
A hamstring injury to Manu Vatuvei opened the door for Maumalo to get his first NRL opportunity of the year in Round 15, and he has held his spot since, impressing with high involvement and an improved defensive understanding.
With Vatuvei returning this week, Maumalo was given the nod ahead of Lolohea for the remaining wing spot, with Lolohea named on the interchange.
"It is [a big confidence boost for me], that was one of my goals knowing that Manu would come back, my goal was to earn my spot and I am glad I am still in the team," Maumalo said.
"I thought I would be gone, but 'Cappy' (coach Andrew McFadden) saw a bit of form and I am just happy to be playing again with him (Vatuvei).
"My form has been good lately and I am just looking to build on this week and the next couple of weeks."
In three games this year Maumalo is averaging 19 carries and 175 metres gained per match.
Together he and Vatuvei will form a monster wing combination; Maumalo standing at 191cm tall and weighing 105kg, and the latter tipping the scales at 109kg and registering 189cm on the chart.
With his side having won five of their last six games, McFadden said he had a plan to involve both players heavily in attack.
"They are natural [strong carriers of the ball], they like to get in there and work, so we have got a plan to allow them to work together hand-in-hand," McFadden said of his wing duo.
"Ken has worked very hard on his game, and that is reflected in him getting a new deal.
"I think his position in the side has become very valuable, that is why he is there and why, unfortunately, Tui has had to make way for him."
Experiencing a frustrating season where he has managed only seven games so far, Vatuvei said he would relish the opportunity to line up with Maumalo who many in New Zealand have dubbed 'Mini Beast' in reference to his physical likeness to Vatuvei.
"I think I have passed it [the 'Beast' moniker] on to him," Vatuvei joked mid-week.
"Kenny has been doing really well, I have been catching up with him a few times and having a few chats on how we can both improve and do well for the team.
"He is my development buddy so I spend a lot of time with Kenny now and do a bit of video and stuff on how we can improve our game.
"Hopefully I can come back on and do what he has been doing for the last couple of weeks. He is pushing me to play even harder now."
After spending time at fullback, wing and five-eighth this year, it is unclear what role Lolohea will play off the interchange on Saturday.
The most likely option would see Thomas Leuluai move to hooker mid-game and Lolohea come on at five-eighth, with starting dummy-half Issac Luke getting a rest.