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Lolohea chases post-Warriors spine role

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/05/2017 Angelo Risso

New Warriors recruit Zac Santo will spend limited time in the NRL club's first-grade set-up despite joining on an 18-month deal.

The 24-year-old Queenslander signed for the Warriors on Monday as a replacement for the outbound Tuimoala Lolohea, who was released from his club contract on Saturday and has since joined the Wests Tigers.

Santo, a specialist fullback, made three appearances for the Cowboys before heading south to Canberra in 2016 for two matches in the green jumper.

Warriors boss Stephen Kearney told reporters Santo would serve as the NSW Cup's No.1, allowing the likes of Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to play in the same position for both the NSW Cup and first-grade sides.

Kiwis ace Roger Tuivasa-Sheck has the NRL fullback role under lock and key - much of the reason why Lolohea sought a release.

The Kiwi and Tongan dual international was placed on the wing by Kearney at the start of 2017 but failed to adapt to life on the flank and was dropped after the side's defeat to the Dragons in round four.

He was not seen in a Warriors jumper again.

In his 53 games for the club, the speedy 22-year-old was often considered a Mr Fix-It and played across the entire backline, despite voicing his wish for a permanent place in the halves or the No.1 jersey.

Like Tuivasa-Sheck, neither Kieran Foran nor Shaun Johnson are likely to be budged from the side's halves roles in 2017.

"The last thing I want to do is stop a young man trying to achieve his potential," Kearney said on Tuesday.

"I just thought it was fair, for both parties, to let him go.

"He felt he wanted an opportunity in the halves or at fullback, so that's the best chance he's going to get at the Tigers."

Lolohea is likely to slot into the Tigers' five-eighth role for the remainder of the year, before replacing the departing James Tedesco as their 2018 NRL fullback.

He is expected to make his Tigers debut on Saturday against the Dragons.

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