He might be giving up 10cm, 20kg and nearly 170 NRL games of experience, but Wests Tigers winger Kevin Naiqama says he hasn’t given any extra thought to taking on New Zealand powerhouse Manu Vatuvei this weekend at Mount Smart Stadium.
The Warriors winger is set to play his 200th NRL game in the NRL when he takes on Wests Tigers this Saturday night, and while Naiqama is certainly aware of the talent his direct opponent has, he isn’t at all worried by the daunting proposition.
“I haven’t even thought about it yet,” laughed Naiqama after training.
“I’ve done a bit of video and things, and obviously he’s got a massive rap and he’s a big human, but in saying that, he’s playing in the other team so I’ve got a job to do.
“He’ll be wearing a different coloured jersey on the day, so when we get out there on the field, I’ll be just trying to do my job for the team and do my best to contain him.”
There's NOTHING quite like a packed hill! Be there on Sunday, April 19 when we take on the Canberra Raiders at Leichhardt Oval!
Naiqama says the confidence from shutting down Dragons flyer Eto Nabuli earlier in the year — particularly when it came to high balls — will hold him in good stead this week as he prepares for the Warriors to launch an aerial assault down his wing.
“They can kick them my way all the like,” he said. “I’ll keep jumping for them.
“To be honest, I’m not really focused on any other player when the ball’s kicked.
“When the ball is in the air, my whole focus is on that ball, timing my run and catching it. I don’t even know where they are half the time, so I won’t even be thinking about where Manu will be. It just won’t even cross my mind at all when the ball’s in the air.”
Having quickly become a fan favourite at Wests Tigers for his flamboyant hairstyles and gritty performances, Naiqama has made the right wing his own this year, and says he’s enjoying finding his feet in the side under new Head Coach Jason Taylor.
“I’m still getting my bearings on how JT wants me and the team to play, but in that regard, we’ve been really building and improving each week,” he said.
“That’s been our main focus and we’re happy with where we’re at at the moment.
“There’s still lots of room for improvement too, so we’re looking forward to getting on with the job this weekend and building on our last performance.
“JT was really pleased with the effort from last week. It felt like a semi-final in the way that it was a grind, and I think it was a real credit to our defence on holding them out.
“They asked us a lot of questions and we just kept turning up, and they had nothing extra to throw at us at the end — they simply ran out of ideas and ways to beat us.
“That’s the aim this week against the Warriors too, just to keep that defense going.”
Wests Tigers take on the Canberra Raiders in their first game of the year at Leichhardt Oval on April 19! Click here to secure your seats and cheer on the boys in Sunday afternoon footy!