After recently announcing the appointment of Stephen Kearny as their head coach for 2017, today the New Zealand Warriors CEO Jim Doyle publicly declared that multi-premiership winning five-eighth Kieran Foran has also signed with the club.
The acquisition is a wonderful coup for a side, who will now feature the entire spine of the New Zealand test side in their starting 17 in Roger-Tuivasa Sheck, Issac Luke, Shaun Johnson and the newly-acquired Foran. This leaves no room for a certain individual with a big future, who found himself bouncing in and out of first grade this season: Tui Lolohea;
After RTS suffered an season-ending injury earlier in the year, Lolohea entered into a bit of a fullback rodeo with David Fusitua, who ousted him for the main job toward the end of the season. He also spent a bit of time in the halves and with Shaun Johnson penning an article for Fox Sports back in July where he claimed “he [Lolohea] will be playing alongside me in the halves next season. You heard it here first.” Tui’s fate across the Tasman looked sealed, but Rugby League’s a funny game and the gods love to troll us from time to time.
To secure his immediate future, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lolohea respectfully ask for a release, and who are the Warriors to stand in his way? I’m adamant that Lolohea is a passionate New Zealander and clubman, but a kid with his talent could very easily find a spot in an NRL side looking for a playmaker — and boy, there is definitely interest in this prospect. Parramatta were reportedly targeting him, ironically as a replacement for the man who may’ve just ended his stint with the Warriors, but after signing Josh Hoffman and prioritising other off-contract halves, the likelihood of Tui ending up at the Eels is not very strong.
Here are a few clubs who could work well with a bloke like Lolohea:
If I was the CEO of the Newcastle Knights, I’m on the phone to Jim Doyle at the drop of a hat to try and get the kid in blue and red colours for 2017. After losing Darius Boyd and Kurt Gidley over the past couple of seasons, the Knights have struggled to cement a No. 1, except rotating between Jake Mamo and Dane Gagai during their worst season in the club’s history. Tui Lolohea is at the right age and his style of play could reinvigorate Newcastle’s stale attack, which only boasted 305 points in 2016.
The Bulldogs are in all sorts of trouble at the moment, their spine isn’t gelling and their conventional style of play is being exposed by rivals. Individually each member of the Dogs’ spine aren’t lacking in effort, but are fresh out of ideas on how to execute a game plan. Perhaps the departure of key members in their backline could be a blessing in disguise, paving way for a Hopoate switch to centre, handing over the reigns to a ball-playing fullback who could breathe life into the Belmore-based club and help poor ol’ Des Dasler sleep at night, Tuimoala Lolohea could be that man. The versatile youngster acts as a second five-eighth from the back, which would definitely take some pressure off of natural runners Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds. Hasler sure knows how to unlock a player’s full potential and behind a monstrous, intelligent forward pack, Lolohea would shine.
Blake Green has signed with the Manly Sea Eagles, which would be the perfect opportunity for a young player like Lolohea to ply his craft under master coach Craig Bellamy, who puts his players through rigorous weekly routines. In a well-run side like the Melbourne Storm, the Kiwi prospect could flesh out some of the little errors in his game. Under the tutelage of the most legendary spine in NRL club history Lolohea could rise to another level.
This may be one of the more controversial inclusions but hear me out, Mitchell Moses has reached new heights this year after steering his side out of the thick for the better part of 2016. Becoming one of the form halves of the competition, Moses played a few games at halfback and proved his worth at controlling the pitch. Luke Brooks has shown patches of greatness, but is yet to capture the magic form Moses is exhibiting. Another mediocre season and the Tigers may start to lose patience with their star halfback, who was touted as a future Origin halfback. It is possible the Tigers could sign Lolohea short term and have him as a utility. If Luke Brooks has an underwhelming 2017 at the Tigers, Lolohea would be the perfect candidate to play at five-eighth alongside Mitchell Moses the following season. With Moses’ kicking game doing the rounds, Lolohea’s running game would be the perfect foil in a youthful joint-venture outfit.
Hey, Tui Lolohea may not even end up leaving. He may well just bite the bullet and stick it out on the wing or in reserve grade, but if there’s one thing that’s certain in just about any professional sport: you can’t suppress talent!