1st Grade Fringe
- Apr 12, 2012
Jerome Ropati is in discussions with the Warriors about a new contract but decisions about the length of that deal won't be determined until he can prove he's over his injury concerns.
The utility is into his 10th season with the Warriors but it has already been a disjointed one. He has made six appearances this year but went off injured against both Manly (ankle) and the Roosters (hamstring). That followed the serious knee injury that restricted him to just three games last year, and the shoulder infection that ended his 2010 season.
Ropati is a valuable member of the club and this week will slot in at fullback to cover for the injured Kevin Locke and Glen Fisiiahi and out-of-sorts Krisnan Inu, but has spent too much time off the field in the past 18 months for the club to make any hasty decisions.
"Discussions with someone like Jerome would normally be a bit earlier but he's been hindered by injury," Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said. "Jerome has been with the club for 10 years so he's a key member and we've had some early discussions."
Ropati is thankful they are even talking. He has seen plenty of players come and go from Mt Smart Stadium and knows sentiment will get a player only so far.
"Whether they want me on a short-term or long-term agreement, that's hard to tell," he said. "I'm glad we're talking. They've expressed interest in me.
"I love it here. It's my home town, my family and friends are here and we haven't won the premiership, which is something I want to achieve. Family is another consideration because I'm coming to the end of my career."
Ropati is still only 27 but has played only 136 NRL games, meaning he has missed on average 10 games a season with injury. While he is a classy operator, there is greater competition at centre with youngsters like Ben Henry and Konrad Hurrell coming through.
But one of Ropati's greatest strengths is his utility value and he has played at centre, fullback, five-eighths, lock and wing for the Warriors. Invariably, when there was a problem in the early part of his career, Ropati could fix it in the same way Lance Hohaia did in his time with the club.
"I've always understood that this is going to be my role if we hit a few injuries," Ropati said. "I don't mind that Bluey (coach Brian McClennan) comes up and says we have no one else to play fullback but you. I understand that we need to win this week and I'll do whatever I can, in whatever position, to help do that."
Ropati has played nine times at fullback for the Warriors and also started there for the Kiwis in the 2005 Anzac test. His experience is one of the reasons McClennan has plumped for him in the crucial position against Brisbane at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
"He's a 10-year veteran at the club and is a strong carrier of the football and good communicator," McClennan said. "He will put himself in positions that will help our attacking options. Jerome will get there. When you go to do a play, you know he's going to be there and that's important."
Sadly, that isn't the case with Inu and is a principal reason he is likely to be left out of the match-day 17 against the Broncos. He is prone to errors but his work ethic also lets him down.
"I'm getting comfortable with [playing fullback]," Ropati said. "The more times I find myself back there, the more I have to learn how to fit in and play my role.
"That's the mindset I'll have this weekend, I have to make [fullback] my position. It's one of two positions I'll play this year."
It's up to Ropati's body where he plays next year.