Salford Red Devils’ Paul Rowley says ‘underdone’ Tim Lafai still nowhere near peak

Tim Lafai has made an explosive start to life as a Super League player but his head coach Paul Rowley says he is still “massively underdone” and that the best is yet to come.

The Samoan joined Salford Red Devils ahead of the season with more than 150 NRL appearances to his name at Canterbury Bulldogs and St George Illawarra Dragons.

Lafai showed his class with a key role in their opening two wins, scoring a try in the latter against Toulouse Olympique and then a double in defeat to Hull FC before missing Sunday’s trip to Huddersfield.

The 30-year-old only linked up with the Devils a few weeks before the season began, having barely played a first-grade game in the past two seasons at Canterbury.

“Tim’s been great,” said Rowley.

“He’s massively underdone in terms of games played in the previous two years, then he had no pre-season because of the messing about with visas. But he’s been solid, both defensively and in attack.

“I’d say it’s like riding a bike (getting back into the game) but you’ve still got to get the mileage in the legs from a physical point of view, certainly as you get to the other end of your career. 

“He’s undercooked in terms of the mileage but he’s an extremely fit and conscious human being anyway; he’s got a personal trainer, so it’s just the rugby miles he’s not had, like the timing and the contact.

“He’s in a new country. He asks me every day when it will stop raining and when will the sun come out. I keep lying to him and telling him it’s tomorrow or the day after. 

“It’s a massive change for him and his family (Lafai has moved from Australia with his wife and four children) to come over here in the middle of winter and into a new club, to start trying to play again after such a long lay-off. 

“There’s a whole host of reasons why, given time, he’ll improve, find his feet and become a better player.”

Lafai has proven an especially smart capture considering Salford were only in the market for him because of injuries to other players in pre-season.

Those centre positions remain thin, with Kallum Watkins and Harvey Livett still out and Dan Sarginson now back on the sidelines with a fractured shoulder.

The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.