Lance: ‘Flower punch is behind me now’

Lance Hohaia
Lance Hohaia
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Lance Hohaia has spoken of his regret over his famous Grand Final clash with Ben Flower but insists he has put the incident “to bed”.

Flower, the Wigan and Wales forward, became the first player to be sent off in a Super League title decider and was subsequently banned for six months for striking the St Helens half-back twice on the head in the opening moments of October’s Old Trafford showpiece.

Hohaia’s Grand Final contribution was restricted to less than two minutes as he was taken off with concussion and he was later given a one-match ban for provoking his Wigan opponent with illegal use of his forearm but went on to collect a winners’ ring.

“I was disappointed with what occurred in the Grand Final,” Hohaia told his club’s website “It was a big game and we’d had a tough year. It was a chance for me to step up, lead the team around the pitch and to be the half we needed.

“I was disappointed I didn’t get to play a bigger role but we got the trophy in the end so I was pretty happy about that.

“I spoke to the media afterwards and said once I walked off the field that was the end of the incident for me. I put it to bed then and I don’t see any reason to discuss it further.

“The lads did a great job without me; we were a man down and they were too. Wello (Paul Wellens), JT (Jordan Turner), Tommy Mak (Makinson) and Robes (James Roby) played well in those key positions then Greg Richards, Luke Thompson, Mose (Masoe), Sia (Soliola) came to the fore too.

“There’s a part of me that would go back and change things but we move forward. The season was a successful one; we were League Leaders and Grand Final winners too.”

While Flower will miss the first three months of the new season due to his suspension, Hohaia will be available for the start of St Helens’ title defence against Catalan Dragons on February 6 after serving his one-match ban in pre-season.

The 31-year-old former New Zealand international, who has made 73 appearances for Saints, is set for a new role in his fourth season at the club following the signing of Australian stand-off Travis Burns from Hull KR.

“I’m likely to be playing a utility role but the important thing for me at this point is to get fit and get ready for the season,” he said.

“Everything else will take care of itself and I know if I play well then I will fit in the team somewhere.”

g The South Sydney Rabbitohs returned to training at the start of the week after their Christmas and New Year break, and with sights firmly set on the World Club Challenge against Saints at Langtree Park next month and retention of the NRL titile.

After a tough Four Nations tournament, Kangaroo representatives, Dylan Walker and Alex Johnston, resumed training alongside England’s George and Thomas Burgess and Kiwi hooker Issac Luke for the first time since winning the 2014 Premiership.

Meanwhile, the new faces came courtesy of the addition of ‘train and trial’ contracted players, Wartovo Puara and Thompson Teteh – both from the PNG Hunters – as well as Fijian international Daryl Millard – formerly of the Bulldogs, Dragons, Wakefield Trinity and Catalans.

Puara, 24, is a hooker who has also represented the PNG Kumuls against the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII, and was part of the Kumuls’ World Cup train on squad in 2013, while Teteh, 25, is a centre who also played with the PNG Hunters Queensland Cup side in 2014, and was also part of the Kumuls’ World Cup train on squad in 2013.

“We’ve had a number of people come in for an opportunity in the form of the two boys from PNG as well as Darryl, and a number of great juniors who are working their way up,” said head coach, Michael Maguire.

“The goal for all of them is the same – to be in the best shape they can be.”