Masaga relishing new role with Chiefs
April 10, 2013
Lelia Masaga is benefitting from a change in mindset © Getty Images
Despite a self-confessed slow start, a new direction and a new game plan for Chiefs winger Lelia Masaga has transformed the No. 11 into a winger hungry for action with or without the ball.
Masaga admitted to a slow start to the season as the Waikato franchise had a solid-yet-unspectacular start to the season, winning five of their first six matches.
The one-time All Blacks player put the tough start down to some new instructions from coach Dave Rennie that took some getting used to.
"As a winger I tended to sit on the wing and hope the ball comes to me, but this year's different," Masaga said. "This year I've got my head around things and I've adjusted a few things."
Those changes include a desire to come off the wing, where possible, to provide a valuable attacking threat in the middle of the park, whether as a runner or a decoy, to stretch defences further.
However, it was an overall change in philosophy - of keeping it simple - that has helped Masaga and his hunger.
"It's just little things, like working really hard to come off the wing, hovering around the midfield and trying to get more ball in hand."
With an increase in off-ball movement comes a need for greater fitness, something Masaga also addressed in the off-season.
"I struggled a bit, purely because I was not as fit as I was. But this year was really just about working on my speed and cardio."
The result is a more consistent level of speed not hindered by an increase in off-ball movement.
Despite a comprehensive seven-point win over the Blues before a bye in Round 8, Masaga said a new-found rivalry with the Queensland Reds would ensure his side would train and perform with the same level of intensity as it had in Mount Maunganui two weeks ago.
"They've got lots of names on the field and have kind-of a similar game plan. The Reds were the underdogs at one time and now have been champions. [Intensity] doesn't change because I think for us the Reds have beaten us three times. We've kind of struggled to maintain the performance that we need. We do well in the first half, and then as soon as they get a roll on it kind of shoves us down."
While yet to discover an 80-minute performance, the Chiefs have been boosted by the return of Richard Kahui. The centre was back to his best as he tore through the Blues backline to set up the 29-18 win.
That inclusion has meant positions are even more precious during the week, including Masaga's.
"Being able to be picked as a starting winger shows I'm doing something they're asked to do," he said.