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Lololea finding his feet at NRL's Tigers

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/06/2017 Scott Bailey

Wests Tigers recruit Tuimoala Lolohea has admitted it will take time to regain his best form but is just happy to be back playing in the halves in an NRL side.

Lolohea played his first game for the Tigers in their 16-12 loss to St George Illawarra on Saturday, less than a week after packing his bags and moving from New Zealand.

The 22-year-old was once rated one of the most talented prodigies in the game, but spent the past two months stuck in reserve grade at the Warriors.

After spending the majority of the past two years in the centres or on the wing, Lolohea was relieved to finally work his way back to the halves on Saturday.

"It was pretty tough - pretty rough," Lolohea said of his past few months at the Warriors.

"I'm happy that I've overcome that.

"I grew up playing at fullback and five-eighth - just not in the outside backs.

"I didn't play there coming through as a young fella.

"In the beginning I had to accept it like this is what's better for the team, but I know it's a business and I want to play somewhere where I can get the best out of my footy."

As such, Lolohea said the mid-season switch to the Tigers - who were desperately in need of a playmaker to replace Mitchell Moses - was motivated by a chance to play in the halves under Ivan Cleary.

"Ivan has given me a pathway to play in the halves and he's not expecting to chuck me in there and do some magic," Lolohea said.

"I want to be successful when I sit back after playing footy.

"I want to look back in 10 or so years and say that's the best decision I made in my career."

Lolohea's Tigers career got off to an indifferent start at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.

At times he looked dangerous, breaking through three tackles as he took on even more responsibility without injured halfback Luke Brooks.

But at times he looked every bit the player who had spent months in reserve grade - highlighted best by a first-half cramp.

Lolohea put a kick off out on the full, threw an intercept and made a poor defensive read in the lead up to the Dragons' only second-half try.

"It's a whole different level when you come into first grade," Lolohea said.

"There were a couple of rusty touches but that's footy and you can't always be perfect.

"It's just about getting better and being in a position I haven't played for a while."

Cleary said he would give Lolohea time.

"He hasn't been brought here to be the saviour," Cleary said.

"He'll get better, he's a classy kid.

"He's got a lot of ability and we've got belief in him."

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