'Brother Bill' lifts Laumape's sights, then wings it

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2013
Bill Tupou
Getty Images
WINGER GONE: Bill Tupou has left the Warriors with immediate effect and has signed for the Canberra Raiders.

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Opportunity is a funny word in team sport - one that hides as much as it discloses. Opportunity can provide one player with the chance to shine, to make best use of the spotlight.

Yet that chance will only ever come at the detriment of another. One player loses form, gets injured or gets in trouble off the pitch - and he opens the door for someone else.

The situation for the Warriors' outside backs this season has been a perfect example of what opportunity really means - just ask Ngani Laumape.

Coming into the 2013 NRL season, few outside the the Warriors front office would have put solid bets on the 20-year-old Palmerston North native playing first grade this season.

But Laumape - who makes his sixth NRL start against the Brisbane Broncos at Mt Smart Stadium today - is excelling in first grade, after coming through a learning spell at the Auckland Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup.

That opportunity has seen a "brother" depart the club, however.

Fellow winger Bill Tupou, who played 62 games for the Warriors - including the 2011 NRL grand final, has had to leave - inking a two-and-a-half-year contract with the Canberra Raiders last week.

Laumape roomed with Tupou before his first Vulcans game in Sydney in March, learning much from the 24-year-old. But even the former under-20s star knows that sport is business.

"Bill was a major part of me adapting to first grade," Laumape told the Sunday Star-Times.

"He taught me the little tricks, how to find yourself in those tough moments in the game. I really appreciate it from Bill.

"He's like a brother to me. I learnt so much from him.

"It's sad to see a great player leave, but that is better for myself in this club."

Giant winger Manu Vatuvei echoed his younger colleague's thoughts.

"It was a massive shock to me when I heard that Bill was leaving," said Vatuvei, who has scored nine tries in his last eight outings for the Warriors.

"He stood up at a training and said his part to the boys. It was pretty emotional - but that's part of footy.

"I think he was playing really well - just unlucky not to get picked in the team. A few of the other boys are showing form. Someone has to go, I guess."

Tupou's move to the Raiders does slightly clear up the picture as far as the Warriors' key backs go next year.

Wigan's star fullback Sam Tomkins - who the Star-Times revealed had signed with the Warriors last week - will be wearing the No 1 jumper, forcing Kevin Locke into the mix for standoff, with Thomas Leuluai likely to shift to hooker. Locke may be battling Carlos Tuimavave - who is yet to re-sign with the Warriors past 2013 - and recent Cowboys draftee Chad Townsend for the standoff position.

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If not, Locke will be battling it out with Vatuvei, Laumape and Glen Fisiiahi for the wingers' jumpers. Vatuvei sees the dilemma as a good thing for the club.

"We've got a lot of outside backs now," he said. "The past few years our strength has been forwards, and hardly any outside backs. It's changed now - and that's a good thing."

In Laumape however, Vatuvei sees something special: a young man with the attacking weaponry of another of the Warriors' explosive backs.

"I see him as another Konrad Hurrell. They are both the same size and same strength. That's a positive for us and that showed in the game against the Roosters.

"We all had that go-forward. It helps our forwards and, hopefully, we can continue that."

The Broncos had no Sam Thaiday, Justin Hodges, Corey Parker and Matt Gillett, due to Origin, last time the two teams met - and were walloped 56-18 by the Warriors.

Vatuvei knows it will be a different task.

"[Corey] Parker is back and is playing his best footy at the moment," he said.

"He was great in Origin and [will be] looking to back that up.

"Around dummy half they'll be dangerous with [Justin] Hodges back too.

"We've got a few things we've got to work on with those Origin guys coming back - but we've got to build on the things we've been doing well in the last few weeks."

- Sunday Star Times

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