New Hull FC signing Ligi Sao is preparing to adapt his game to the attacking style of Super League following his switch from the New Zealand Warriors.
The Samoan international has spent his entire career playing in the NRL, with the focus in Australia’s premier competition mainly put on defence.
However, Super League’s expansive style is often an eye-opener when overseas players arrive and Sao is all too aware of that having spoken to new teammate Chris Satae.
“Chris is one of my good friends,” said Sao. ”He was one of the first people I approached when I was talking about joining Hull FC and he told me that it’s fast over here.
“He said it’s a technical style of rugby. It’s very different from home where the emphasis is on defence, whereas here is more of a running game.
“That’s what he told me about his last four games here and I think he’s chasing a win too because he hasn’t got a win under his belt yet, so he’s pretty desperate for one.”
Sao is a late bloomer in the sport having played rugby union up until the age of 17, before turning to league and attracting the interest of Manly Sea Eagles.
After three seasons with the Sydney-based club, Auckland-born Sao moved back to New Zealand and has been a bit part player for the Warriors since 2016.
Making less than 50 appearances in seven NRL seasons has frustrated the 27-year-old, who now wants to find some consistency with the Airlie Birds.
“I just wanted a fair shot at playing some footy,” he said. “For me footy is all about enjoyment and I’m looking forward to playing alongside my new teammates.
“I like playing down the middle, whether that’s in the front-row or at lock. I have played a few games on the edges but footy wise I haven’t spoken [to Lee Radford] about my exact role yet.
“It’s just a matter of me getting back into the routine of training and meeting all the boys. Again, I need to be enjoying it because if I’m not then I’m doing something wrong.”
Despite his lack of action down under, Sao’s availability earlier in the year still caught the attention of a number of clubs in Europe and Australia.
Speaking on his reasons for joining the Black and Whites, he revealed that his coach at the Warriors, ex-FC back-rower Stephen Kearney, played a part in the decision.
“I was in my last year at the Warriors and I was looking around for clubs and then Hull FC popped up,” explained Sao.
“The history of the club was the first thing I noticed. The city as a whole has a big rugby league community and I was told about the derby straight away.
“I’ve heard good things about FC, especially the back-to-back Challenge Cups in 16 and 17. My coach [Stephen Kearney] also said I would love playing here.
“Hull put their hand up first, they were very keen and when someone is showing that much interest in you then that has to be respected.”