Newcastle Knights’ strike centre, Joey Leilua believes speculation on his level of fitness can be dispelled after his performance in the side’s Round 1 win over the New Zealand Warriors.
“I’m pretty happy with my form at the moment and obviously showed on the weekend what I’m capable of doing,” Leilua told the media on Wednesday.
“There was something in an article about me being unfit, and I pretty much proved them wrong.
“When you go into off-season you like to have fun and enjoy yourself and probably put a couple of kilograms on, which I obviously did.
“But then I came back and trained hard and obviously played round one and showed why I belong in the team.”
The dangerous centre, who has notched 101 NRL games, was ranked the second highest for metres gained in his 80 minute performance.
Leilua accumulated a solid 180 meters behind fellow centre Dane Gagai, who gained 222 meters and scored twice in the 24-14 victory.
“I showed on the weekend what I can do,” he added.
“I’m just here to play footy.”
The 23-year-old feels better for his Samoan Four Nations experience that brought out his scintillating ability to bust tackles in high intensity matches against New Zealand and England.
“It gave me a lot of confidence coming back to the Knights after playing in those international games with big players in other teams,” he said.
“You obviously get more experience and more confident with your game and you bring that back to the club you play for."
While he says representative honours are not at the forefront of his mind at this stage of the season, he hopes his pursuit of consistency will put him in good stead.
“I’m not thinking about Origin at the moment, I’m thinking about the Knights and thinking about my performance this week," he said.
“Whatever happens, happens and if I get chosen in Origin, I’ll put my hand up.
“I was 18th man for Origin side, but I’m not going to get ahead of myself.
“I’ll just put my head down and work hard and get consistent, how I played in the Four Nations.”
Confident he’s cemented his place in the starting side, Leilua also acknowledges the young talent knocking on the door.
“There’s a lot of depth in the side, as you can obviously see with Sione (Mata’utia) and Jake Mamo in the backline,” he said.
“If I put in a performance each week and know I did my best throughout the week to prepare myself for that game, then I’m sure I’ll perform like I did on the weekend."
Although the season opening match was characterised by high errors and low completion rate, the team is determined to make rapid improvements before facing the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday.
“There’s inconsistencies in everyone’s games I think, you just have to learn when to pull those shots off and when not to," Leilua said.
“I don’t think I did too many of those on the weekend.”