Injured Warriors fullback Kevin Locke is expected to return to first grade next week. Ben Stanley reports.
The knowledge that you're likely to be keeping someone else's jersey warm until they return from absence or injury is one of the cruellest feelings in sport.
Knowing that even if you put your heart and soul into the chances you get, and perform with skill and maturity; once the star is back, you'll have to cede your claim on the jumper.
Welcome to the world of Warriors fullback Glen Fisiiahi, who will run out for the club against the Storm at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.
With utility Jerome Ropati out for the season with injury, Fisiiahi has performed admirably in his three first-grade performances appearances so far this year. But he knows there's a significant element in him clocking up more NRL game time in 2012 – that of Kevin Locke.
The four-test Kiwis fullback has managed just four appearances this season, thanks to a badly corked knee, and, more recently, a sternum injury suffered against the Storm in round eight.
Locke's return to the first-grade begins in Newcastle tomorrow, when he turns out for the Auckland Vulcans in their New South Wales Cup clash with the Knights.
Yet while coach Brian McClennan is indicating that Locke would be in the frame to return to the Warriors for their clash on Monday week against the Panthers, Fisiiahi has other ideas.
He wants to force McClennan to do the unlikely; keep him in the No1 jumper through a performance against the Storm tomorrow that simply makes him too hard to drop.
"The best thing is try not to make Bluey call him back up," the 21-year-old said. "I've just to make sure I do my job in the No 1 jersey for the Warriors.
"I've just got to play consistent football. Prepare well mentally and physically. Just got to keep putting in good performances in week in, week out."
Despite extended spells in the Vulcans over the last 18 months due largely to the form of Locke, Fisiiahi has shown promise when given a chance for the Warriors since his debut in the opening game of 2011.
McClennan said Fisiiahi's performance in the Warriors' loss to the Tigers a fortnight ago was one of his best to date.
"I thought [the Tigers match] was his most mature first-grade game," the former Kiwis coach said.
The Storm enter the weekend's game atop the NRL ladder, coming off a dominating performance against the Broncos last Friday.
Fisiiahi said that restricting the movement and play of Storm stars Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater was crucial for the Warriors' chances of victory come Sunday.
"They've got the big three," he said. "We've got to try and stop them, and I believe we've got the team to stop them. I guess with us, we've been training well, and feeling good. There's a good vibe in the camp."
Warriors: Glen Fisiiahi; Bill Tupou, Ben Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, James Maloney, Shaun Johnson; Russell Packer, Alehana Mara, Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor, Simon Mannering (captain), Feleti Mateo. Interchange: Lewis Brown, Sam Rapira, Sione Lousi, Jacob Lillyman.
Storm: Billy Slater, Matt Duffie, Dane Nielsen, Will Chambers, Justin O'Neill, Gareth Widdop, Cooper Cronk; Jesse Bromwich, Cameron Smith, Jason Ryles, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hoffman, Todd Lowrie. Interchange: Anthony Quinn, Rory Kostjasyn, Michael Greenfield, Jaiman Lowe.
- Fairfax Media
Who is your pick for international league player of the year?Related story: (See story)