Lolohea finally ready to make No.1 his own
Tuimoala Lolohea will be hoping his 23rd positional switch in just five years of NRL football will be his last for at least this season.
A talented youngster, Lolohea hasn’t been able to make a jersey his own for a full season since he was the Junior Warriors’ first-choice five-eighth on their run to the 2013 under-20s grand final.
But five years later - and after stints in every jersey from No.1 to No.7 along with time on the bench - he is finally ready to make the fullback position his own at Wests Tigers.
After arriving at the club as a replacement for five-eighth Mitchell Moses midway through last season, Lolohea will make the switch to the No.1 jersey in place of James Tedesco in 2018.
And it’s there that after 65 NRL matches he finally hopes to make himself at home under coach Ivan Cleary.
“I’m hopefully playing in a position where I get to make it my own,” he said.
"I’m pretty excited.
"I had some good honest conversations with Ivan and he said the opportunity is there for me, it’s just a matter of whether I want to go at it with two hands or not.
“That’s my goal and I’m trying to do the best I can to add to the team and have a better year this year.”
Lolohea, a member of Tonga’s World Cup squad, played fullback on and off as a youngster but has never spent more than seven consecutive weeks there in the NRL.
He returned to pre-season training early before Christmas following Tonga’s World Cup run in a bid to prepare himself for a full year in the No.1 jersey.
He has also worked closely with former NSW fullback Brett Hodgson in the past month, after the Tigers premiership winner joined Cleary’s staff as an assistant coach for the next two seasons.
“Since I’ve been back I’ve just stuck into that position,” Lolohea said.
"I’ve learned a lot in the month I’ve been back. Getting my body right and getting it right on the field.
"I’ve still got a lot more to learn. I’ve got a lot support from the coaches, especially Hodgo who has come on board with us.
“That was his key position and he is trying to give me as much knowledge to build my game which is a positive for me.”
LOLOHEA’S LONG NRL ROAD TO THE WESTS TIGERS’ NO.1 JERSEY
2014 - Bench (two games), wing (one game).
2015 - Fullback (one game), centre (two games), fullback (seven games), centre (one game), fullback (two games), wing (three games), centre (one game), halfback (five games), fullback (one game).
2016 - Wing (six games), five-eighth (one game), fullback (six games), bench (one game), wing (one game), bench (two games), fullback (three games), wing (one game), fullback (one game).
2017 - Wing (two games), fullback (one game), five-eighth (one game at Warriors), five-eighth (13 games at Wests Tigers).