Leeds Rhinos recruit Tui Lolohea is expecting a tough battle with opposite number Blake Austin in Saturday’s opening round game against Warrington Wolves.
The 24-year-old was part of a strong recruitment in 2019 for the Rhinos, as new head coach David Turner added Tongan international Konrad Hurrell and Australia forward Trent Merrin, and Warrington signing Austin was equally one of the headline acquisitions for the competition as a whole.
And Lolohea, who joins from New Zealand Warriors, is aware of the threat that Austin brings to the Warrington side after seeing him in action in the NRL for Canberra Raiders, but believes compete against the 27-year-old.
“He’s a decent player and he has a name for himself,” he said. “Saturday’s going to be a decent game, he’s got a lot of threat with the ball in his hand but we’ve got a lot of players who like to play with the ball in their hand too.
“I don’t want to go out there and think I’ve got to do this or that, I just want to do my part to make sure the team does they best they can. Furns (David Furner) has got the boys prepared for this weekend and we’re all really excited. It’s probably up there with the best pre-seasons I’ve had. I felt like I’ve put a lot of work in and I’m feel ready to go.”
Meanwhile, long-serving forward Stevie Ward believes he is in the best shape possible ahead of the new season. A series of injuries meant that Ward played just 17 times last season, in a career hampered by injury, but he now feels well-placed to have a big season in the side.
“I’m feeling really fit,” he said. “This is only my second ever pre-season as a player and we’ve had some great input from the new guys coming in from the new coach and the players and there’s a lot of excitement about the place. Everyone hopes fora n injury-free season and I just want to keep playing games and keep on that roller coaster and get us back to where we should be.”