Lolohea will fight to keep Tigers fullback jersey
Author Margie McDonald Senior Reporter Timestamp Sun 27 May 2018, 07:01 AM
The Wests Tigers have used three fullbacks this season in Tuimoala Lolohea, David Nofoaluma and Corey Thompson.
Another three players from outside the club - Moses Mbye, Valentine Holmes and Lachlan Coote - have been mentioned as possible targets for 2019 with Mbye likely to sign next week.
What is it with the No.1 jersey at Tigertown? Perhaps the simple answer is that it’s hard to replace a player like James Tedesco.
But the man originally handed the job in round one of the 2018 Telstra Premiership – Lolohea – is about to make a statement. After nine weeks of nursing a knee injury, the former Warrior is back to reclaim it.
It all starts with the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Sunday. Thompson and Nofoaluma are his wingmen.
''I need to try and cement my spot," Lolohea told NRL.com.
"At the moment I just want to be out there again and put in a solid performance this week. That’s first and foremost for me - getting back into the No.1 jersey and trying to hold onto it.
“Corey has done a solid job and he’s been really good. He’s an example of the depth at this club. But it’s really up to me to decide if I want this or not.”
Thompson has played No.1 seven times. On Sunday it will be his fifth time on the wing. He is philosophical about Lolohea’s right to reclaim it, as well as rumours of other fullbacks circling.
“It doesn’t unsettle me because every club is going to try to buy or do whatever they can to make their team better,” Thompson told NRL.com.
"If I’m playing fullback that’s great. But if they think they need to buy someone and I’ve got to play wing, then so be it. If I have to play front row to be in this team, I’ll do it.
“Whoever they buy regardless of how much they’re worth or what position, I’m going to train my best and play my best to make sure I’m in this team.”
Lolohea likes the friendly rivalry among the back three at Concord.
“It’s competitive at this club that’s for sure, and that’s only a good thing,” he said.
“Ivan is always telling us we have good depth and he’s not afraid to use it.”
Lolohea is also concerned about staying healthy.
“It hasn’t been the best start to a season, getting the injury in round one,” he said.
"I just pushed myself too much and came back too early and paid a bit for that. I just wanted to be out there, didn’t care about playing through the pain.
"Ivan sat me down and said ‘Take a couple of weeks off to get it right’. That was the best thing,.
“I’ve played the last two weeks in reserve grade and the knee felt pretty good. So I finally get my opportunity back in first grade this week.”
And Thompson and Josh Reynolds finally get to play their old club.
“Grub [Reynolds] is more fresh out of the Bulldogs so he’ll be a bit more anxious than me to get out there and show his old teammates a thing or two,” Thompson said.
“I’ve still got a lot of friends there – they haven’t got a whole lot of new boys since I left [end of 2015]. So it’s exciting.”
Thompson says his smaller stature isn’t a disadvantage taking on larger opponents.
“It helps too because sometimes I can duck under the big guys like Dylan Napa and the like, and get tangled up in their legs,” he said.
“I can use my footwork and acceleration to get out of tight situations. It’s worked well so far.”
Thompson has scored five tries in 11 matches, and made 38 tackle breaks.