SLIM: Junior Sa’uNEWCASTLE Knights fans can expect to see a lot less of Junior Sa’u next season.
Not that the Kiwi international centre has any plans to vacate his favoured spot on Newcastle’s left edge, but Sa’u has stripped five kilograms from his chunky frame and aims to play next season at the lightest weight since his NRL debut in 2008.
‘‘I’ve trimmed down a bit and it’s helping me move a lot better around the park at training,’’ Sa’u said yesterday.
‘‘I can definitely see the change … I’ve lost five kilos.
‘‘I’m about 97 or 98kilos at the moment.
‘‘I’m normally about 102.
‘‘Playing at 102, I thought it was my best weight, but that was sort of like extra fat I was carrying.
‘‘They’ve trimmed me right down and I feel much better and a lot sharper.’’
Sa’u attributed his transformation to hard yards during the pre-season and a new-found diligence to what he eats.
‘‘It’s just doing all the little things right,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve given up fast foods and I’m paying more attention to what meals I’m having before training and after training.
‘‘We’ve got a dietitian and the plan she has made for me is basically working.
‘‘I’ve just got to stick to it.’’
Sa’u is capable of trampling any defender when he has a full head of steam and he is confident he will still make an impact next year despite his reduced body mass.
‘‘I feel like I haven’t lost any strength when I’m running the ball at our skills sessions,’’ he said.
‘‘In the gym, I’m feeling probably the strongest I’ve ever been. It’s heading in the right direction but I have to keep knuckling down.’’
New coach Wayne Bennett and high-performance manager Jeremy Hickmans have insisted on lowering skinfold levels since arriving in Newcastle as they set about creating a leaner, meaner team.
Sa’u, who has been a mainstay of Newcastle’s backline for the past four seasons, admits he will have to be in peak condition to fend off a host of challengers eyeing his position.
Wes Naiqama played the best football of his career last season before suffering an elbow injury, and rookie Siuatonga Likiliki showed potential in his two top-grade games.
New signings Timana Tahu and Alex McKinnon add to the competition Sa’u will face for the berth he has occupied for 78 NRL games.
‘‘That will definitely be good for me and good for the club,’’ Sa’u said.
‘‘I think competition brings the best out in everyone. We’ve got people there like Timana and Wes and Likiliki and they’re all good players, so that will keep me on my toes.’’
Having represented New Zealand in nine Tests, Sa’u, 24, said he had no regrets about turning down an opportunity to pull on the Kiwis jersey during the recent Four Nations series.
‘‘Towards the end of the year my body needed a rest,’’ he said.
‘‘It felt like it was starting to break down a bit. I had an ankle injury and I needed to get my body right for next year.
‘‘It was hard for me to pull out of the squad but it’s something I needed to do.
‘‘This is my first proper pre-season in three years and I just needed a break to freshen up a bit.’’