Warriors on high alert for explosive Panther Kikau
One man alone doesn't make a team but the Warriors openly acknowledge Penrith enforcer Viliame Kikau isn't your ordinary, off-the-shelf type of rugby league player either.
The Warriors insist they won't specifically target the 119kg, 1.95m Fijian behemoth in Saturday night's elimination final at ANZ Stadium even if they are very aware of the myriad dangers the Panthers second-rower poses.
And well the Warriors might be wary. Kikau set up a try, scored another and made a general nuisance of himself racking up 174 metres and seven tackle breaks in the 36-4 thrashing of the Warriors in July, a night that opposing centre Peta Hiku in particular is keen to forget.
Kikau wasn't quite as effective (91 run metres, six tackle breaks and 29 tackles made) when the Auckland club avenged that round-17 loss with a 36-16 win at Mt Smart Stadium in round 24.
He even displayed a human side by coughing up a bomb that led to David Fusitu'a crashing over early in the second half, a try that effectively snuffed out a short-lived Panthers comeback.
But Kikau's average of 128 metres in his 23 Telstra Premiership appearances this season, coupled with 100 tackle breaks (at 4.34 per game), will make him a marked man as counterpart Tohu Harris recognised.
"He certainly is one of the biggest challenges in the comp," Harris said before highlighting why Penrith recently added three extra years to Kikau's initial contract, keeping him at Panthers Stadium until 2022.
"He hasn't just shown flashes throughout the season, he's done it consistently throughout the season, you know, tearing sides apart and showing how dangerous he is.
"He's definitely someone we have to prepare for but in saying that they've got a lot of players who can do damage to footy sides so we've all got to be on the ball and all defend as well as we can to stop the other team."
Warriors coach Stephen Kearney offered a "not necessarily, no" retort when asked if there was a blueprint to specifically target the left-edge destroyer. But he agreed Kikau needed to be watched - just like many of his Panthers team-mates.
A case in point is Waqa Blake with the centre scoring in both of the previous encounters between the sides in 2018, including steamrolling Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck late in the round-24 clash.
"He's obviously a very dangerous threat with the footy," Kearney said of Kikau before deflecting attention away from the human bulldozer who helped Fiji reach the World Cup semi-finals last year.
"[Waqa] Blake outside him is very dangerous also. They've got a couple of pretty dangerous halves [James Maloney and Nathan Cleary] too. If I keep going, I'll fill the players' minds up with so much information.
"For us it's about us executing our best performance on Saturday afternoon. We know we've got a game plan which, if we execute, we give ourselves a great opportunity."
Don't miss out on seeing your team chase premiership glory. Make sure to get your tickets to week 1 of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series