NZ Herald this morning. Whilst we know that Sione will be stand-off due to previous articles this takes it from a mere intention to a stated fact and not something that will be discarded if so-so after the trials.
League: Stand-off and be counted
By Michael Brown
When Sione Faumuina was told he would be playing at stand-off for the Warriors, he asked the club's video analyst to put together a highlights package featuring the likes of Brad Fittler, Trent Barrett and Darren Lockyer.
Although it would have been a video good enough to grace the library of most rugby league fans, Faumuina never got the chance to sit back and enjoy the show. When new Warriors coach Ivan Cleary heard about the idea, he put a stop to it.
"He told me not to do it," Faumuina explained. "He said, 'I want you to play No 6 the way you think it should be played and not the way someone has done it in the past', so that's what I'm going to do."
There are more than a few sceptics who doubt whether the 1.90m-tall, 101kg second-rower-come-lock-come-centre can mould himself into a quality stand-off but neither Faumuina nor Cleary will die wondering. The 24-year-old will start in the pivotal position when the Warriors kick off their season against Melbourne on March 12 and, as far as Cleary is concerned, he will still be there when they wrap things up in September or October.
"There are some doubters out there and I don't know why," Cleary said. "I've always seen him as a good player who reads the game well and he just needs time there.
"Sione's built for it. He's a big guy but he's athletic and the really good ones over the last 10 years - Laurie Daley, Fittler and Barrett - are bigger guys. They not only have the passing game but when they run the ball they're also a danger."
Faumuina is certainly a dangerous runner with the ball in hand. He can break a line or offload in the tackle and pose a problem to opposition defences, creating chances for his team-mates in the process.
It's his kicking, communication, decision-making and reading of the game that will be tested and they are aspects he has worked tirelessly on during the off-season.
Even at training on Friday, Faumuina found himself out of position because he was naturally thinking like a second-rower, while his team-mates wondered where he was.
"It's coming more naturally now," he said. "I feel like I'm developing a good combination with [halfback] Nathan Fien."
Cleary has outlined his plans in key positions with Lance Hohaia at hooker, Fien at halfback and Faumuina at stand-off, but he does have other options with new-boy Grant Rovelli covering all three positions and the versatile Jerome Ropati another possibility to take over at stand-off if needs be.
Finding a quality stand-off has been problematic for both the Kiwis and the Warriors. It's a position that, below a handful of superstars in the game, lacks depth.
Cleary contemplated buying a specialist but found no one to his liking, or who would fit into a tight salary cap.
Under former coach Tony Kemp, the Warriors rarely had a settled look to the halves, largely because of form, suspension and injuries.
While Stacey Jones owned the No 7 jersey when he was fit, Hohaia, Ropati and Fien were all tried at stand-off in the opening rounds before Faumuina was given a chance against the Roosters in round 10.
It was a short-lived switch with Fien taking over for the majority of the rest of the season before Faumuina was handed the reins for another five games before the Warriors' disappointing season drew to a close.
"It's exciting," Faumuina said, thinking ahead to the season kick-off in March. "I always knew I had the skills to play there.
"I have to change my style a bit because I'm normally pretty aggressive playing in the back-row but it's more about distribution and setting players up around me now. "
The Warriors intend playing an exciting brand of rugby league in 2006. With Faumuina in the driving seat, it's pretty much a guarantee.
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