Tui Lolohea targets silverware with Huddersfield Giants

NOW knowing his family are safe in Tonga, Tui Lolohea is looking forward to making the most of his new start with Huddersfield Giants – and finally adding some silverware to his CV.

The exciting Tonga stand-off has reunited with his former Salford Red Devils coach Ian Watson at John Smith’s Stadium, ready to help add some spark to their attack in 2022.

But like many of his fellow countrymen playing over here, thoughts have been with those back home who are dealing with the devastating effects of the recent huge volcanic eruption and resulting tsunami which brought such destruction to the Pacific island.

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Lolohea, who turned 27 yesterday, said: “I sent a message to them (family) in the middle of last week and they got back to me late last week saying they were fine.

“It was more being stuck at home because of the ashes.

“They weren’t affected too much by the tsunami – more the ash and bad air – but they are safe and sound.

“I was worried as my dad’s sister lives in the city close to the wharf where it was quite bad.

“My dad’s two sisters are there and quite a bit of our family, like cousins, who live in Tonga.

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Tui Lolohea of Huddersfield Giants. Picture: Will Palmer/SWpix.comTui Lolohea of Huddersfield Giants. Picture: Will Palmer/
Tui Lolohea of Huddersfield Giants. Picture: Will Palmer/

“But, luckily, they are OK. It would be nice to go back there but that probably won’t happen in the next couple of years.

“It’s hard now with the Covid situation but hopefully in the next couple of years I do get the opportunity to go home.

“I want to see my family and see my mum. She’s buried in Tonga so it’d be nice to go home and see her.”

Lolohea, who memorably helped Tonga beat world champions Australia in an historic win three years ago, is firstly looking to make his mark with Huddersfield.

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Tui Lolohea in actin for Salford last season. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)Tui Lolohea in actin for Salford last season. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Tui Lolohea in actin for Salford last season. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

He knows about Watson’s ability to take unfancied clubs to finals: Lolohea played under him when Salford defied the odds to reach the 2019 Super League Grand Final and then the Challenge Cup final the following year.

Sadly, the former New Zealand Warriors playmaker finished on the losing side both times.

He hopes to address that during his two years with Huddersfield who are similarly desperate for success.

Indeed, during pre-season training, Watson has reminded them of the glory days of the ‘Team of All Talents’, the incomparable Huddersfield side led by Harold Wagstaff who famously won ‘all four cups’ in 1914-15.

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“I am excited,” said Aucklander Lolohea, who first arrived in the UK for a brief stint with Leeds Rhinos in 2019.

“It’s a new challenge for me. A new start. I can’t wait to rip in with the boys.

“Watto has touched on it at training about back in the days when Huddersfield were undefeated for so long and when they had that good run of winning trophies. He’s trying to bring some of that spark back and hopefully we can win some silverware while I’m still here and he’s still here.

“It’s always in the back of my mind. That’s ultimately the number one goal in my career –just to win something.

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“I think that’s quite special. It’s not easy to do and not many do get the opportunity to win something at the top level.

“I’ve been close enough and hopefully I can add some silverware now.”

Huddersfield struggled for large parts last year, Watson’s first campaign in charge after leaving Salford, finishing ninth after losing 15 of their 24 games.

Nevertheless, it feels like the coach has more of his type of player on board for this campaign, not least with Lolohea’s capture but also that of St Helens’ title-winning scrum-half Theo Fages who he also worked with at Salford.

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Veteran Australian back-row Chris McQueen said on yesterday’s season launch media call that anything less than reaching the play-offs would be a failure.

Lolohea concurred. He said: “There will be a lot of pressure but, from what I’ve seen, and the team we do have on paper, I do think we can be capable of it (play-offs).”

He has been impressed with some of the club’s youngsters such as Jake Wardle who is set to make his first appearance of pre-season at Hull KR on Sunday, a game which could also see Chester Butler appear after two injury-ravaged campaigns.

With Will Pryce another one to watch, Lolohea added: “There’s a lot of quite talented young kids at Huddersfield.

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“It’ll be good to see these boys develop over the next couple of years. I think Jake can be a world-class centre. Hopefully he can stay injury-free this season, he has a good run and could then probably push towards the England squad in the World Cup at the end of the year.”

That is when Lolohea hopes to shine for Tonga again after they came so close to knocking England out of the 2017 semi-final.

But first all his efforts are concentrated on Huddersfield and helping them finally fulfil their potential.

Meanwhile, Watson says only 83 per cent of the Giants squad is vaccinated so expects to take a weakened side to face Toulouse for their Super League opener on February 12 – unless French authorities ease Covid rules.

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