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Catching the (assistant) coach's eye

April 2, 2014

Catching the (assistant) coach's eye

Thomas Leuluai’s return to action for the NZ Warriors was the highlight of the Kiwis performances in this week’s NRL round.

With regular hooker Issac Luke extremely doubtful for the upcoming Anzac Test, Leuluai (Kiwi 704) came back from a nagging groin injury to spark his team to a 42-18 victory over West Tigers in Wellington.

His presence seemed to provide the Warriors with another playmaker and leader on the field, with all their points coming after his entry to the game midway through the first half.

“His impact up the middle of the field, where he was playing out of position, made a big impact,” says new Kiwis assistant Andrew McFadden, who fills the same role with the Warriors.

“Given the circumstances around Issac’s shoulder injury, Thomas is looking like a pretty handy replacement.”

Others to catch the coaches’ eyes this week included Manly fullback and former Junior Kiwi Peta Hiku and North Queensland winger Antonio Winterstein, who are also putting themselves on the selection radar with strong early-season form.

“I think Peta just plays beyond his years,” says McFadden of the 21-year-old Sea Eagles fullback, who ran for 147 metres in their 8-0 win over Sydney Roosters in their 2013 Grand Final rematch.

“He plays like he’s been in first grade for a long time and seems to have plenty of time whenever he has the ball in his hands. He’s just a really good footballer.”

Winterstein (Kiwi 764) was part of the victorious 2010 Four Nations squad, but has never taken the field for the national team. He played for Samoa at last year’s World Cup, where he scored against the Kiwis.

Winterstein was a star of the Cowboys’ NRL Nines triumph and he has crossed for two tries in the first four rounds.

“His finishing this season and his early carries have been really strong,” says McFadden. “He’s playing some of his best footy.”


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