Wiki warning from Warriors legend
On the eve of the Downer NRL Auckland Nines, Ali Lauitiiti has sent out an ominous message to any player who comes across his former Kiwis teammate Ruben Wiki on the Eden Park turf.
At 44 Wiki will be the oldest player at the Nines by some distance, and if you remove the NRL Telstra Premiership tallies of veterans Ryan Hoffman and Blake Ayshford, his 312 first-grade games are more than the rest of the Warriors' Nines squad combined.
Wiki follows the likes of Brad Fittler, Steve Menzies and former Canberra Raiders teammate Ken Nagas in making a comeback for the Nines, and Lauitiiti insisted Wiki would do the club proud with his performances.
"He's the right man for it. He's fit and he's up for it, but he looks the part anyway. He'll be good for the Warriors and for the game I reckon," Lauitiiti said.
"I'm sure he's getting a bit edgy. He just can't wait; I think he's ready to get out there and tackle someone.
"I definitely know that he's a competitor and a great leader so I'm sure he'll do his job and do his bit for the team.
"He'll put his body on the line. Maybe you'll see some flying tackles; he'll be like a wrestler, he'll be everywhere."
But while happy to endorse Wiki's comeback for the two-day tournament, Lauitiiti said he wouldn't be following suit in coming years.
"Nah, not me. Shucks, it's just too fast. Everyone's got faster and stronger, all the kids that are coming through," he said.
"I'm just a fan and just want to enjoy watching these great athletes.
"I was pretty much half hanging [the boots] up last year."
Former Kiwi international prop Jeff Lima, who grew up not far from Wiki in south Auckland, said his standing in the game was part of what made him such an intimidating prospect on the field.
"I played a fair bit when 'Rubes' was playing for the Warriors. It was quite intimidating playing against him because he was a person we all looked up to, but we'd always joke around after games and it's good to see him playing again," Lima said.
"He's a role model for all Pacific Islanders and Kiwis and everyone else in Australia as well.
"He's been a role model for everyone that's played rugby league and he's a good person as well.
"He's humble and for him to come and play, we're going to see a lot of fans come out and watch just to see Rubes."