The Greater Sydney Rams have high hopes for new recruit and former NRL fullback Kevin Locke.
Locke, a capped New Zealand rugby league Test player who scored 26 tries in 88 games with the New Zealand Warriors before a stint in the UK, is making his code switch from the grassroots, after signing with the NRC club.
The 27-year-old is working his way back from a shoulder injury and is a chance to suit up for Southern Districts in the final rounds of the Shute Shield before the NRC starts in August.
Rams coach John Muggleton said they were keen to keep the pressure off the experienced fullback but had high hopes for his new recruit.
“He’s got a great package doesn’t he?,” he said.
“He’s fast, he’s elusive, he’s all those things.
“(He needs) A more polished kicking game and tactical awareness added to his natural ability…We’ve just got to try not get in the way of it too much.
“We’ve just got to make sure we let him have the opportunity to express it.”
Muggleton, a former NSW Origin player, knows the challenges of switching codes but said the fullback would be in the best spot to ease into a game he hasn’t played since high school.
“You don’t like to put pressure on people but certainly his rugby league background and skills will hold him in good stead, you’ve seen it with other rugby league converts in the same sort of position,” he said.
“The best thing about being a fullback and being an outside back, is that there is plenty of chances to watch and learn and get a good feel of the game in the middle
“In the initial stages, he can pick and choose (his involvements), but we can help him with that.”
Muggleton said Locke’s influence could be just as important off the field as on, for this teammates and local rugby supporters.
“Rugby league players don’t have to worry about physical preparation, it’s really drummed into them from a young bloke, they’re often on weights at a very young age and do have great preparation,” he said.
“It’s almost like an osmosis thing with teammates as well.”
Playing in Western Sydney, Locke could prove an extra drawcard for the NRC as well.
“There are a lot of Kiwis and Islanders who support both rugby league and rugby - they’re interchangeable here.
“When I was a kid, I played rugby league on Thursday and rugby union on the weekend so it’s very much interchangeable in their support, so hopefully they’ll be motivated to get behind their team.”
The 2016 NRC fixture will be announced on Wednesday at 12pm.