Player a Warrior in the making

GEORGE HEAGNEY
Last updated 12:00 26/12/2012
Ngani Laumape
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GANG TACKLE: Palmerston North's Ngani Laumape is back home from his first year with the Warriors' under-20 side in the Toyota Cup.

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Ngani Laumape could find himself in a Warriors jersey sooner rather than later.

The Palmerston North lad, who has just finished his first year with the Warriors under-20 side, is one of four junior Warriors in pre-season training with the first grade side.

A potential career with the Turbos beckoned before he left Palmerston North to join the NRL club this time last year.

"It's good to train with the big NRL boys," Laumape said.

"They've been there and done that. They set really good examples and it's just good to be in with players like Manu Vatuvei, Shaun Johnson, Konrad Hurrell and Sione Lousi and that.

"It's pretty overwhelming training with them, being with them every day."

The pre-season training was hard work but he was enjoying training with the top squad under new coach Matt Elliot after the juniors and seniors hadn't done much together this year.

"We're getting flogged but it's good fun."

The centre was the junior Warriors' top try-scorer this year with 16, but still felt he had things to work on after his first proper year of playing rugby league.

"It was pretty hard at the start, just position-wise around the field and stuff. In rugby you can move around, in league you stick to your edge.

"I found the pace of the game a lot quicker, the contact is a lot harder. There are a lot of skilful people in league so you've always got to be on your feet all the time."

It took him a while to get used to life away from home, and he was out for six months with a knee injury, taking him until round seven this year before he made his debut against the Rabbitohs, but when he did he wanted to play his hardest.

"I found it pretty hard moving from Palmerston North to Auckland to start. I hadn't found my footing in Auckland and had to keep rehabilitating my knee. Once I started to play, everything started to get better."

In the under-20 competition, players are not allowed to play unless they are studying or working and Laumape is studying at the New Zealand Institute of Sport, doing a diploma in sports science.

He was unsure if he would ever return to rugby, with 2013 the final year of his contract, and said he hadn't been contacted by the Turbos about a future return.

But for now his No 1 goal is to make it into the first-grade side even though it is tough to impress as all the other under-20s players have similar intentions.

"We're all the same, all young and want to play NRL. We all push each other."

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He only has a week and a half off which he will spend at home with his family before he returns to training in Auckland.

- Manawatu Standard

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