From the Herald.
League: Ropati cuts it close
By Peter Jessup
There's a new-look five-eighth in the Warriors' No 6 jersey this Sunday.
Not a new player, just a new look after Jerome Ropati had his mop shaved off midweek in a fundraiser for the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation.
Ropati was confirmed at stand-off for the game against Manly after filling in for the suspended Sione Faumuina, taking his chance and grabbing it.
So he's there for a fourth week, after one loss and two wins, including the victory in Newcastle last weekend in which the Warriors showed increasing stability, some depth and variation in attack - and an increased number of dummy-runners and runners to hit with the ball for halves Ropati and Nathan Fien.
The Warriors looked more polished and keener to get their hands on the ball - and that's how it was for Ropati, too.
"I'm still trying to find my feet [at five-eighth]. You have to think faster and organise quicker. I have to earn the respect of the boys and they have to learn my pattern of play. We're making a good improvement," he said.
Ropati, 21, no relation to the famous brothers, came into the Warriors in 2003 from a Marist-Richmond team that also included fellow Warrior Evarn Tuimavave and Tavita Latu and Marcus Perenara who have since moved from the Warriors to the Sharks and Eels respectively.
At Marist he was a star, playing five games in 2002 as a 17-year-old and scoring five tries, then playing 14 games for 11 tries, five goals and a field goal in 2003.
By the end of that season he had attracted the attention of then-Warriors coach Daniel Anderson and was elevated to make his NRL debut at the end of the season.
He now has 39 games behind him, mostly at centre. That was where he was used last year when Tony Kemp was head coach and Ivan Cleary was his assistant.
At training on Wednesday Cleary, now in charge, said he was sticking with the side that beat Newcastle, and understandably so.
"It's a bonus that we have the choice now. Both guys can do a good job," he said of Ropati and Faumuina.
"Jerome is doing well and we see the opportunity for him to improve."
Faumuina was still in the frame and he would see how the season panned out.
Ropati was bothered by a bad shoulder in the second half of the game against the Knights but said he had recovered fully from the ligament strain. It did not affect his tackling and he agreed defence was a highlight of his game.
"I don't mind the tackling. I like the physical side of the game. It helps get me focused and then I'm enjoying the game."
Ropati said the spirit in the Warriors squad was good, and was that way even after their first-up losses.
"We all felt that we could improve on things and eventually that would get us a win. We just need to stay focused and take things one game at a time.
"You can feel the improvement coming out on the field and when that happens it keeps your confidence up.
"We know we still have more to work on and that gives you a good feeling too. The boys are enthused. It's like we can keep on testing things and pushing."
Ropati was used as fullback in the Anzac test in Brisbane last year, scoring two tries, one of them a 90m runaway. He has ambitions to extend his test career but knows that consistency in the NRL is what the selectors will be looking for. His utility value, though, will be hard to go past.
He enjoys both centre and five-eighth.
"I like running with the ball. You get your hands on the ball more at six. It's training me to look for people in holes, to put people in holes.
"I'm working with Nathan and Webby [fullback Brent Webb], concentrating on improving that understanding."
On Sunday against the Sea Eagles, he just wants to keep on the improving track of the past weeks.
"I have to earn the boys' respect."
Born: November 23, 1984
Junior club: Marist
Career: 19 Bartercard Cup games for Marist-Richmond, 2002-03. 15 tries, 5 goals, 1 field goal. 39 NRL games for the Warriors since 2003 debut. 1 test, 2005.