Slaimankhel relishes time in top grade
Sat, 07 Jul 2012 12:01p.m.
As the season reaches the business end, a trip to the Gold Coast needs to yield two competition points for the Warriors tonight.
After a convincing victory against the Cowboys last weekend at home, the Warriors have a chance to register back to back wins for only the second time this season.
Part of the new breed of Warrior is young outside back Omar Slaimankhel.
Slaimankhel is making the most of the greater time he is getting this week to prepare for an NRL match.
Both his previous appearances were as a late injury replacement and, with both Manu Vatuvei and Glen Fisiiahi remaining on the casualty list, he keeps his place for a third match in a row.
Not that he suffered from butterflies when he got the call to make his debut, even if he ended up having a tough introduction to first grade in the 20-19 defeat to Cronulla.
"He's a real confident kid, is Omar," coach Brian McClennan said.
"He doesn't suffer from any nerves or anything. He believes in himself and it's fantastic."
McClennan said the extra time with Slaimankhel ahead of the away match to Gold Coast on Saturday night had allowed the coaching staff to work on areas of improvement.
Slaimankhel's background is an exotic one by NRL standards.
He was born in Pakistan to Afghani refugees and moved to New Zealand when he was two.
He grew up with rugby union and played in the Auckland Grammar First XV before switching codes and becoming a prolific try-scorer for the Junior Warriors.
Against the Titans, he will have on his side of the field three teammates from the Toyota Cup-winning side of 2010 - Ben Henry, Elijah Taylor and Shaun Johnson.
"I've already played with them so I feel real comfortable with them," he said.
While both his NRL matches have been as a winger, his preferred position is fullback.
However, he is behind Kevin Locke and Fisiiahi in the queue for the Warriors No.1 jersey.
With his contract running out at the end of the year, there are reports that he is being pursued by Australian clubs.
Slaimankhel said his future hadn't been sorted out and he also kept open the prospect of a return to rugby.
"The last three weeks, I've played NRL, so that's awesome," he said.
"I'm happy with where I am at the moment, but we'll see what happens."
Warriors: Kevin Locke, Bill Tupou, Ben Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Omar Slaimankhel, James Maloney, Shaun Johnson, Russell Packer, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering (c), Elijah Taylor.
Interchange: Lewis Brown, Sione Lousi, Jacob Lillyman, Steve Rapira, Pita Godinet.
Titans: William Zillman, Kevin Gordon, Jamal Idris, Beau Champion, David Mead, Aidan Sezer, Scott Prince, Luke Bailey, Matt Srama, Luke Douglas, Greg Bird, Mark Minichiello, Nate Myles.
Interchange: Matt White, Brenton Lawrence, Ben Ridge, Luke O'Dwyer
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