Gradual return no longer Thomas Leuluai's plan

DAVID LONG
Last updated 05:00 02/08/2014
Thomas Leuluai
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KICK IT: Thomas Leuluai knows he’ll need to use his feet as well as his hands tomorrow for the Warriors.

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Thomas Leuluai's plans of gently easing himself back into NRL footy have came to a shuddering halt.

When Shaun Johnson limped off at training on Thursday, re-injuring his groin, it meant that Leuluai will be starting in the halves for tomorrow's game against the Raiders in Canberra.

But unlike last weekend, against the Sea Eagles when he filled in for the injured Johnson, he'll be expected to drive a lot more play and have a kicking game this time.

Leuluai, who is just getting back into his groove after a groin injury hampered him for eight months, kicked the ball just once in that 22-12 loss at Mt Smart Stadium, but says he'll need to use his boot more tomorrow to help the Warriors secure two valuable competition points and get back in the top eight.

''The main reason why I was playing at hooker was to take the kicking load off me,'' Leuluai said of his recent appearances backing up Nathan Friend.

''But I'm going to have to do a bit more this weekend. Tui [Lolohea] is on the bench and is probably going to play more than he did last week and I might move back to hooker later on.''

Leuluai said he planned to steadily build himself up to playing for 80 minutes and when Johnson and Chad Townsend were going well in the halves there was no need to rush his recovery, but Johnson's recurring groin problem has put paid to that idea.

''I would have liked to slowly progress back in, but circumstances have changed and I've got to do what's best for the team,'' he said.

Lolohea is seen as one of the brightest young stars at the Warriors and eventually, some time in the future, he'll form a formidable partnership in the halves.

He's only 19, but Leuluai is impressed with what he saw of him last week against the Sea Eagles.

''He was solid and it was hard to come on when the game was most probably beyond us,'' Leuluai said.

''He's a very talented kid and didn't get many chances. If he gets them [against the Raiders] he'll definitely take them.

''From broken play he's pretty special.

''He's pretty cheeky and gets himself in a bit of trouble sometimes from the older boys,'' Leuluai added.

''But he can handle himself and he's pretty confident and I think that's why Cappy [Warriors coach Andrew McFadden] put him in there. He backs his ability and I know he's going to do that for us this weekend.''

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Meanwhile, Leuluai says Raiders fullback Anthony Milford is the player they'll be paying the closest attention to tomorrow.

''He is dangerous, especially from broken play,'' he said.

''On the kick returns we've got to know where he is and he'll attack whichever way the ball goes.

''It's an indicator for us on which way the play is going to go and where our urgency needs to be.

''I'd kick to the corner, I wouldn't kick to the middle, he's pretty dangerous, I've seen clips of him tearing up teams.

''The main thing is keeping a line on him, when you keep the line you contain him better, but if you've got a short line or guys jumping out of line he can make some people look silly.''

- Stuff

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