Why Lolohea is so excited to return to Mount Smart Stadium
For the first time since moving across the Tasman, Wests Tigers fullback Tuimoala Lolohea will return to where his career began: Mount Smart Stadium.
On the surface, it’s no different for Lolohea than the number of other ex-Warriors who will run out for Wests Tigers this Saturday. Ben Matulino will play his first game at the venue not in Warriors colours; Russell Packer his second; Elijah Taylor his third.
Even Coach Ivan Cleary is preparing for just his fourth trip back to his old stomping ground as coach.
For Lolohea, however, there’s just a little bit extra when it comes to Mount Smart Stadium and it all comes down to his somewhat bizarre try-scoring record.
Wind it back to 2015.
Having come through the junior grades at the Warriors and cracking the first-grade squad late in 2014, Lolohea earned his starting spot the following year and soon began to show the talent that had so many excited to see him in the NRL.
In Round 3 against the Eels, he scored his first try — at Mount Smart.
His second NRL try came against the Wests Tigers at Mount Smart in Round 6
His third came against the Knights in Round 12.
You guessed it: at Mount Smart.
His fourth came against the Roosters in Round 14. Mount Smart again.
On and on it went.
Through 25 rounds of the 2015 season, Lolohea had scored nine tries.
None in Australia. None outside of Auckland. All of them at Mount Smart Stadium.
In 2016, the record continued — only once did Lolohea scored away from home.
When Lolohea joined Wests Tigers midway through the 2017 season, his try-scoring record was strong: 17 tries in 52 games played for the Warriors.
And yet of those 52 games, only two of them saw him score away from Mount Smart.
The record is so incredible that even when he returned to the ground during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup for Tonga, he scored.
Of course he scored. It’s Mount Smart, after all.
So while there’s certainly plenty of excitement for all the ex-Warriors and Kiwis to return to Mount Smart, it’s easy to see why Lolohea is particularly up for the trip back to where his try-scoring exploits began.
"It's going to be cool to go home," Lolohea said of his return back to Auckland this week.
"It'll be great to have my family come up and support me live. I always love it when they get behind me and having my best mates there... hopefully I can get a bit of energy off having them there.
"Ivan joked about it yesterday that we're heading back home with all the Kiwis in our team.
"But it'll be cool to be back there; I think it'll be a sellout.
"There's no better feeling to start the year than coming up against the premiers.
"It's going to be a good occasion playing the doubleheader in New Zealand."
See what Tuimoala Lolohea had to say about this week's game in full in the video above!