Lolohea earns the right to be No.1 man
Following arguably the toughest month of his NRL Telstra Premiership career, Tuimoala Lolohea responded in the best way possible, letting his footy do the talking.
After being dropped to the bench for three of the Warriors' last four games, the 22-year-old utility played his way back into the starting fullback position for the clash against the Panthers on Saturday.
It comes off a strong showing from the bench in Canberra last week, where Lolohea clocked up 32 minutes and ran the ball six times for 65 metres, including a line break, leaving coach Andrew McFadden convinced it was time to recall him to the No.1 jersey.
"As I have said all along I haven't lost any faith in Tui, we made the change based on what we thought was best for the team, and this is the same," McFadden said.
"He showed me enough on the weekend that he was energised, and he was very professional in what was a very difficult week for him, so I think he is ready to come back in.
"Tui is a class player, he is coming back in now and I think he will add a bit for us."
The rumour mill was in full swing during Lolohea's stint on the bench – peaking after the Kiwi international received only two minutes of game time against the Sea Eagles in Round 19 – with suggestions that he wanted out of the club and that his relationship with McFadden had soured.
But ahead of replacing David Fusitu'a at fullback for Round 21, Lolohea was quick to rubbish those suggestions and instead throw his support behind McFadden.
"I guess it probably hasn't been the best couple of weeks for me, [but] I have had a lot of support and a lot of conversations with 'Cappy' (McFadden) throughout the three weeks," Lolohea said.
"There was a lot of stuff going around me in the media and stuff saying there were a lot of clubs [after me], but I am pretty happy here and I am just trying to get better as a footy player.
"I can't wait to get out there this weekend and rip in, I managed to get more minutes last weekend, I just tried to go out there and play some good footy and get my name back in the starting line-up.
"What Cappy was saying in the media was right, there is definitely stuff I need to work on and I understood and respected Cappy's decision in that game against Manly when he didn't play me.
"I was disappointed and Cappy knew I was disappointed, but at the end of the day he makes the decision.
"He mentioned a couple of games before [I was put on the bench] that I needed to work on some stuff and I think it got to that point where I think it was good for me that I got benched.
"Just some reaction stuff on the field, I just react a bit too slow and I have just got to get my body in front."
The move of Lolohea to fullback sees David Fusitu'a shift to centre and Blake Ayshford move to the bench.'
Veteran winger Manu Vatuvei remains likely to play despite battling a knee complaint, while second-rower Bodene Thompson is a chance to return from an ankle injury.