A late inclusion to last night’s game at ANZ Stadium, Sitaleki Akauola topped the Wests Tigers metre-count in the 30-10 loss to the Bulldogs – despite starting on the wing.
Akauola made 167 metres from 17 runs and two tackle breaks in what was just his eighth NRL match.
More accustomed to the back row, the Manuwera junior attributed his strong carries from deep inside his own half to helping out the forward pack.
“I was just trying to do the job of a back and get the ball back up field as far as I could,” Akauola said. “That way the forwards can have a big rest.”
“Coming from the forwards, I know what it feels like and it’s so much easier when the backs make those metres for you.”
Akauola recently re-signed with the Wests Tigers for another two seasons and will move into the NRL top 25 squad in 2015.
The 22-year-old joins a host of other young talent to commit to the Wests Tigers beyond this season, including Ava Seumanufagai, David Nofoaluma and Curtis Sironen.
Up there with the most improved Wests Tigers players in 2014, Akauola made his NRL debut in Round 5 last year but failed to appear in the top grade for the remainder of that season.
After training hard during the off-season, Akauola has turned in a strong campaign and will be hoping to finish the year just as strong with the NRL side – followed by a finals campaign with the second-placed NSW Cup team.
“Hopefully we can learn from this game and turn it around next week (against the Raiders),” Akauola said. “There were a few positives to take out of the game and also aspects we will work to improve on.”