Old Glory has announced the return of speedy winger Peni Lasaqa, the young New Zealand winger who lit up the league with nine tries last season. The youngest player on Old Glory's squad, currently just 22 years old, was a smashing success on field.
A late joiner last season due to visa issues, Lasaqa missed the first two of matches of the season. Once he arrived, though, he played in all 14 remaining matches and started in 13, racking up a total of 1069 minutes. He only missed 51 of the minutes he was available for, meaning he was on the pitch 95% of the time. He carried the ball 89 times last season for a whopping 1303 meters and 1173 meters gained. That's over 13 meters a carry, which is the most of any player in the league last year with a comparable number of carries. He had 12 clean breaks, good for second in the league, and beat 23 defenders.
While an attacking powerhouse, one area Lasaqa could stand to improve is on defense. His 67% tackle rate was the worst on the team for players making a significant number of attempts. As a winger, he is unlikely to get to the +90% tackle rate that many forwards achieve, but ideally he'd be in the high 70% to low 80% range. The defense in general struggled a lot last year, and players like Lasaqa improving their tackling consistency will be key to improving the win total next year. He's still very young, and I expect we'll see some progress next season.
Curious who has been signed and who is leaving? Check out our 2023 Signings Tracker for all the updates!