NextGen: Connelly Lemuelu

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Tacky
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NextGen: Connelly Lemuelu

Post by Tacky » Wed 17 Jan, 2018 2:26 pm

Connelly Lemuelu has certainly come a long way in the last 18 months.

From kicking the winning field goal in the 2016 GIO Schoolboys Cup Final for Keebra Park, to playing in Wests Tigers Holden Cup side in 2017 to training alongside his childhood idols with the full-time squad in 2018, it's certainly been a rapid rise for the talented teenager over the past year and a half.

The year ahead will be Connelly's second season playing U/20's for Wests Tigers, which will be replaced with a state-based competition this year as part of a massive overhaul in junior development.

Although hampered by injury last year, the Papatoetoe junior believes what he learned since moving down from the sunshine state will prove invaluable for his development going forward.

“My first year of U/20's was an awesome experience," he said with unbridled enthusiasm.

"Obviously it was the last year of Holden Cup, so it was pretty good to get that under my belt.

"But it was also gutting at the same time because I only got to play a few games through injury.

"It was just such a great experience for me and something that was everything I thought it would be."

A handy five-eighth or fullback, Lemuelu hails from across the ditch, playing rugby union as a junior before moving to the Keebra Park High School development program on the Gold Coast: The former stomping ground of one of Connelly’s heroes growing up, Benji Marshall.

Training with experienced players like Benji, has been an incredible learning experience for the 19-year-old, who is looking to make the most of his time with the first grade squad.

“I’ve been watching Benji ever since I was young," Lemuelu said.

"He went to Keebra as well, so we’ve had a pretty similar story and I’ve been able to pick some stuff from his brain and add it to my game, which has been enjoyable and a bit surreal at times.

"Being in full-time, I'm learning as much as I can and hopefully in 20’s I can be like Benji for the younger boys that are coming through so they can learn some stuff from me as well”.

While training with the first-grade has been a great learning experience, the bump in intensity (and duration) from U/20's hasn't gone unnoticed by one of the club's brightest young guns.

“Full time training is hectic, but I love it though," Lemuelu laughed.

"The first few weeks were pretty tough; obviously the jump from U/20's to first grade is pretty big but I think my body is adapting to it well and I’m getting used to it.

"The fitness is really tough — that's certainly a huge jump up from the U/20's.

"The days are long as well. When we come from the U/20’s where we train from 4:30pm to 6:30pm, its only 2 hours, but in the full-time we start at 7 and don't finish until later in the afternoon.

"It was a bit of a shock, but when I go back and do a session with the U/20's again, it's definitely helped me and I really get a lot more out of the sessions and can push myself a lot further in them."

Having already come so far in the last 18 months, the future looks even brighter for young Connelly as he strives to be more of a leader for the new faces joining the club's U/20's team in 2018.

“We’re still trying to see what kind of culture we can build and what the future holds for us," he said.

"I've only been here a year but it’s pretty exciting that I get to be a part of that. It makes me feel like I’m a part of a new start for the Wests Tigers and I want to be one of the greats and part of the future”.



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Geo.
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Post by Geo. » Wed 17 Jan, 2018 3:11 pm

Very poor in his 1st year of 20's...then again everyone pretty much was last year....

Has talent but could go the way of many talented kids at age level..may kick on ...our conversion rate from 20's hasn't been that great in recent times..
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Tiger Steve
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Post by Tiger Steve » Wed 17 Jan, 2018 3:20 pm

"He went to Keebra as well, so we’ve had a pretty similar story“. Not too similar yet! Benji went on to be a world champion. Hopefully in years to come Connelly can have a similar story to Benji. Time will tell
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Geo.
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Post by Geo. » Wed 17 Jan, 2018 3:30 pm

Tiger Steve wrote:
Wed 17 Jan, 2018 3:20 pm
"He went to Keebra as well, so we’ve had a pretty similar story“. Not too similar yet! Benji went on to be a world champion. Hopefully in years to come Connelly can have a similar story to Benji. Time will tell
Benji was a looong loong time ago..the strike rate for Wests Tigers from Kebra making it as a regular 1st Grader with us is virtually 0 since Benji....

I'm not surprised the relationship has ended...
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2. The Star of the Team is the Team
3. Be the player your teammates want to play with..

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Tiger Steve
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Post by Tiger Steve » Wed 17 Jan, 2018 7:15 pm

Geo. wrote:
Wed 17 Jan, 2018 3:30 pm
Tiger Steve wrote:
Wed 17 Jan, 2018 3:20 pm
"He went to Keebra as well, so we’ve had a pretty similar story“. Not too similar yet! Benji went on to be a world champion. Hopefully in years to come Connelly can have a similar story to Benji. Time will tell
Benji was a looong loong time ago..the strike rate for Wests Tigers from Kebra making it as a regular 1st Grader with us is virtually 0 since Benji....

I'm not surprised the relationship has ended...
Lets hope this kid makes it 1 since Benji!!
“Peanuts! Get ya peanuts - in the shell or sugar coated!” Leichhardt memories.


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willow
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Post by willow » Wed 17 Jan, 2018 8:41 pm

Geo. wrote:
Wed 17 Jan, 2018 3:11 pm
Very poor in his 1st year of 20's...then again everyone pretty much was last year....

Has talent but could go the way of many talented kids at age level..may kick on ...our conversion rate from 20's hasn't been that great in recent times..
I watched him a couple of times last year and he wasn't a standout, but you're right, our squad was rubbish and fingers crossed he kicks on this year.

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Post by Dan Blanco » Thu 18 Jan, 2018 11:25 am

He'll come good. So will his buddy Tom Mikaele, they'll come good.

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Post by Balmain Boy » Thu 18 Jan, 2018 12:58 pm

It's hard to stand out in a team getting pumped by 50 points every week. He was probably our best back when he was on the field (although Liam Pakau might get the nod ahead due to better stats after playing more games), Mikaele our best forward and Peck perhaps the most consistent/inspirational.

Not easy for a kid settling in a new city, getting injured every couple of weeks, and shuffling from fullback to wing to centre every second match.

He has X factor, size and pace. Sometimes he tried to hard and made a heap of mistakes. Other times he set up tries by making a half break and putting Pakau over with a blind flick pass.

Maybe he'll kick on, maybe he won't. This is his second summer training with first grade so the club obviously rates him extremely highly.

From the 10 odd times I saw him play last year I rate him as a higher prospect than Papenhuyzen. more skills and a bigger frame help. Pap was always quite small and similarly injury prone. I see him similar in style to Corey Norman or Tui.

I remember seeing him in the last minute of the GIO Cup final making sure he got the ball in his hands and then kicking a 45m field goal to win. That's good instincts, skill and leadership.

From his interview he sounds like a very level headed young bloke with a desire to be part of our future so I wish him well in 2018 and look forward to seeing how he goes!

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Post by steve-o » Thu 18 Jan, 2018 8:26 pm

I remember hearing about this kid last off season, so I was surprised that we didn't hear much about him during the season... Though I don't follow the 20s very closely.

Fingers crossed he can kick on.
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