We couldn't hold Lolohea back: Kearney
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney is at peace with the decision to release Tuimoala Lolohea mid-season, convinced he couldn't offer him the future he wanted in Auckland.
After months of speculation about Lolohea's options at the Warriors, spurred on by the fact that he was restricted to playing predominantly on the wing in reserve grade this year, the 22-year-old was released last Saturday and immediately linked up with the Wests Tigers on a deal through until the end of 2019.
While sad to see the local product depart, Kearney said the club had done all they could to keep Lolohea and in recent times it had become clear that they couldn't reach a compromise.
"To be honest I think I saw him as a specialist winger to begin with, and I think Tui saw himself more as a half or fullback," Kearney said.
"It's always disappointing to see young guys who have been here for a while [leave], but he didn’t see the opportunity here for him.
"The last thing I want to do is stop a young man trying to achieve his potential.
"I just thought it was fair for both parties to let him go and chase the position he wants to play.
"We have done all we can, I had an idea of where I wanted to play him and with the way the guys are playing [in the NRL side] there wasn’t an opportunity there.
"That's the best chance he is going to get, at the Tigers."
Lolohea came through every level of the Warriors' junior system, starring at Holden Cup level and helping lead the Junior Warriors to the Premiership in 2014.
Having made his NRL Telstra Premiership debut that season, a year later Kearney selected him to play his first Test for the Kiwis and Lolohea's career was on a clear upwards trajectory.
But as injuries in key positions hit the Warriors, Lolohea was typically the man called upon to fill the void, and between 2015-16 he played every position in the backline and even served as an interchange player for former head coach Andrew McFadden.
According to long-time teammate and close friend Nathaniel Roache it was always going to be tough for Lolohea to shake the utility tag at the club.
"It's hard when you have so much talent and can play so many different positions, it's hard for that fella to find one," Roache told NRL.com.
"Mooks' [Kearney] always tries to have people's best interest at heart, and at this point in his career I do think it's best for Tui to go and spread his wings.
"With Ivan Cleary being there at the Tigers too and with Benny [Matulino] going over next year he will have someone to look after him, which is good.
"I'm very sad to see him go, especially when he has been at the club for so long, but also excited for him because I know he will crack on wherever he goes.
"I am sure we will be hearing about the success he is going to have."
Lolohea finished his time in Auckland having played 52 first-grade matches for the club, scoring 17 tries and kicking 18 goals for a total of 104 points.