Huddersfield Giants' Michael Lawrence pays tribute to departing Giant Paul Whatuira
RISING Giants star Michael Lawrence has paid tribute to departing fellow centre Paul Whatuira.
Former New Zealand Test ace Whatuira will return to Australia for family reasons later this week and will bring the curtain down on his two-and-a-half year stay in Huddersfield.
During that time he has helped bring on Lawrence, who is tipped by many as a potential England centre of the future.
And while the former Newsome Panthers’ England Academy international fully understands why his mentor is departing – it was always Whatuira’s intention to leave at the end of the season, but his indefinite hamstring injury has hastened the decision – he admits the news has still come to him, and his teammates, as a major blow.
“It’s going to be a sad day when he leaves,” said the 20-year-old Lawrence. “When I first got into the first team a few years ago he was our big marquee signing, and it soon became clear why. He’s a fantastic player, truly awesome.
“But his arrival was also one of the best things that could ever have happened for me. I owe him so much for what he has taught me about centre play in the time he’s been here. From almost day one, he took me under his wing and has always been there to give me advice and support when I’ve needed it. Without him, there’s no way I could have developed the way I have.
“Yet even though it’s sad to see him go – and I know I speak for everyone in the squad when I say that – I know it also opens up an opportunity for me to establish myself even more as a first-choice centre here and show everyone what I can do.”