WESTS Tigers young gun Lamar Liolevave says he’s excited to finally be able to show what he can do against the best players in the game when he takes the field this Saturday in the Club’s NRL Auckland Nines squad.
After being named the Club’s NYC Player’s Player of the Year last season and making his junior representative debut for the Junior Kiwis, Liolevave made the transition to the full-time NRL squad at the start of 2015 as he pushes for a first-grade debut. And while the former Auckland local isn’t getting ahead of himself in regards to making his way into the NRL, he knows how important a strong tournament will be in staking his claim for a back-row spot this year.
“I’m just very thankful to have this opportunity to be picked in the Nines,” reflected Liolevave before the tournament begins this weekend.
“I can’t wait to show JT [Jason Taylor] what I can do.
“It’s going to be a big challenge for myself and for a couple of the other boys in the team — it’s our first time playing against the big boys — so I’m a little bit nervous, but I’m also just so excited at the same time.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity for all of us here in Auckland.
“We probably don’t have as many big names in our squad this year, but that gives us other boys the chance to step up and show the coach what we can do.
“I believe in all of them and I know that they have the talent to succeed, so it’s now about putting that into action on the field and working well together.”
The 20-year-old recently signed a new contract with Wests Tigers that will see him remain with the Club until the end of the 2016 season after a standout season in NYC Holden Cup. Playing every game throughout the year, the Keebra Park and Marist Saints junior scored 10 tries, registered six try-assists and 15 linebreaks, and averaged over 109 metres per game.
And while the gap between NYC to NRL is one he’s well aware of, Liolevave believes playing NYC in 2014 might actually help his chances at succeeding at Eden Park this weekend.
“I think coming from that NYC background will actually really help a lot of us young boys this weekend,” he said. “We just know how open the game can get at time in 20’s and being able to take advantage of that could help us.
“But at the same time, I think the thing that I’m lacking is that I don’t really know what the physical side of the NRL is like. You can do as many opposed sessions as you like and yet you don’t really know what it’s like until you take that first run.
“But that’s good. I’m keen to test myself against some of the best players in the world this weekend and prove that I’m ready to play against them every week.
“My goals this year is just to play some consistent footy, up my work-rate a bit more and try and make my way towards that first-grade debut.
“I think the Nines is a really good chance for me to start on all three of them…”