Ikahihifo taking giant strides at NZ Warriors
If there's one player that epitomises how things have changed at the Warriors under Andrew McFadden as the team's coach it's Sebastine Ikahihifo.
The 23-year-old back rower was struggling for game time when Matt Elliott was the boss, he played just eight games last year and was only used once this season before the Australian coach headed through departures at Auckland Airport for the final time a couple of months ago.
But ever since McFadden's been in charge he's selected Ikahihifo and he'll play his ninth game of this campaign tomorrow night when the Warriors take on the Rabbitohs in Perth.
Ikahihifo is just the type of player McFadden likes, he has some frills to his game, but realises that everything stems from firstly doing the core roles in your job right.
He admits it's surprised him how he's gone from being a reserve grade NSW Cup player, to a regular face in the NRL side these days.
"It was quite a shock," Ikahihifo said.
"The day Matt Elliott left he said to me 'look Seb, you're starting, you're putting in a lot of effort' and that was that.
"When he gave me that chance I took it and right now I'm eight games in."
Of all the players in the Warriors squad Ikahihifo would have to be the least quoted. That's not because all of the players struggle to hog the limelight like Sam Tomkins and Shaun Johnson do, but because he's bashful in front of the media.
When Fairfax Media requested interviews with Ikahihifo last year, the reply back from the club was 'sorry mate, he's too shy to do interviews.' But if he was going to crack it in the NRL, Ikahihifo realised that he needed to be better at this part of the job, so schooled himself up over the off season.
"I always tried to avoid it," Ikahihifo said.
"I didn't really speak well at that time, but I took a few speech classes with the boys and they were fun.
"I learnt a lot from the classes and I'm better at answering questions now, because I do get nervous and don't seem to be able to answer the questions properly.
"I initially thought about rugby league that you just go hard. I thought of the fans and the fame, but not the interviews."
The Warriors are one of the hottest teams in the NRL right now, having won four of their last five games. Unfortunately for them though, so too are the Rabbitohs and they were clinical in the way they took apart the Dragons 29-10 last weekend.
It's going to be a tough game for the Warriors and playing the Rabbitohs is a considerable step in quality from their last two opponents, the Titans and Knights.
"They're a hard, physical team and I'd better bring my A-game and that physicality as well, like I did last weekend," Ikahihifo said.
"Their whole team, the Burgess brothers, it's going to be a big challenge and I'm looking forward to it."