General Royal Reigns Among Starting Warriors


Royal Reigns Among Starting Warriors

1:49 PM Thursday Jul 22, 2010 Twitter

Injuries paved the way for Jesse Royal's run of first grade appearances. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post Shrink
Injuries paved the way for Jesse Royal's run of first grade appearances. Photo / Rotorua Daily PostAfter preparing to play for the New Zealand Warriors' feeder club at the start of the year, prop Jesse Royal has compiled a notable run with the National Rugby League club.

Royal, who is in the starting 13 for the away match against South Sydney on Sunday, is to be one of only three Warriors to have played every match this season.

Hooker Aaron Heremaia and interchange forward Ben Matulino are the others with 17 appearances heading into the clash at Homebush.

Royal admits that his status as an ever-present in the side isn't something he would have expected a little over four months ago.

"I was supposed to play for the Vulcans and it was only because a few injuries came up that I played the first game," he said.

"Since then, it's just been about working hard. All you can do is train hard and play every game like it's your last."

In a season in which coach Ivan Cleary has had to work around numerous injuries, the Warriors have been hard hit in the front row.

Among those who have spent significant time on the sidelines are Steve Price, Sam Rapira and Jacob Lillyman.

Price's heel problem means he won't play at all in his final NRL year, while Rapira could be back next week.

Lillyman, who returned to action with the Vulcans last weekend, has been included on an expanded bench against Souths.

Royal, 30, made his NRL debut three years ago with Newcastle and made 29 appearances over two seasons before being let go by the Knights.

A Hamilton-born former Army chef, he was working in the Newcastle coal mines when the Warriors relaunched his NRL career.

He played 15 matches for the Warriors last year, when he felt the lack of a proper pre-season showed up in his performances.

"I had a lot of dropped ball and it was a disappointing year, to say the least," he said.

"This year, I feel like I've got the fitness in the bank. I'm a bit more confident in my ability on the field and it's been great."

Five victories a row have lifted the Warriors to fifth on the ladder, while Souths have won just once over the same stretch to drop to ninth.

However, Royal rated the Warriors as underdogs heading across the Tasman, citing as one reason the 26-24 result against the Rabbitohs at Mt Smart Stadium in May.

"We beat them by only two points and that was over here," he said.

"Over there, they'll have the home crowd behind them and everything will be stacked in their favour. We just have to keep our heads down, train hard and come up with a great plan against them."

Royal was bracing for a tough battle up front against the likes of Kiwi Roy Asotasi, English international Sam Burgess and big David Taylor.

Asotasi was out injured and Taylor on Queensland Origin duty when the sides last met, but Burgess made an impression.

"He's got great footwork and he can offload," Royal said. "He's also big and aggressive and he can put a shot on."

Royal comes off contract at the end of the season and, while his preference would be to stay with the Warriors, he isn't sure what next year will bring.

"I've not really thought about that," he said.

"All I'm concentrating on is playing well for the team and putting my best foot forward."