Leniu's study of Melbourne prop to play out in prelim


Spencer Leniu has been studying for his preliminary final battle with Nelson Asofa-Solomona since high school.

Watching highlights of the man he still describes as Melbourne's "really big scary guy", making mince meat of fellow teenagers in schoolboy rugby in New Zealand.

"I used to watch Nelson's high school highlights when he was in rugby union back when I was in high school," Leniu explains to AAP.

Back then, Leniu was an aspiring Panthers junior at Patrician Brothers, Blacktown.

Asofa-Solomona was four years his senior, already a grand final winner at Melbourne and New Zealand Test representative in rugby league.

"I was just like this guy was just obviously a big guy and he moves pretty good for a big guy," Leniu recalled.

"Just bumping everyone off, offloading and all that kind of stuff.

"It was funny, because then the first time I got to go to play him, I was like s***, this guy's way bigger in person than I thought."

Leniu will give away 17cm and 5kg to Asofa-Solomona on Friday when the pair go to battle in the middle of the field at Accor Stadium.

But the nuggety Penrith prop easily makes up for any difference with his power and ferocity.

Remembered for seeing red in last year's preliminary final and being left seething when hit high by South Sydney's Taane Milne, Leniu is the fieriest character in the Panthers pack.

He made headlines again earlier this year for a mid-field stoush with future Sydney Roosters teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, after a water bottle was thrown in his direction.

His battle with Asofa-Solomona this week will take on extra importance if they both come off the bench, after Melbourne opted to start the 27-year-old last week.

Together, Leniu and Asofa-Solomona are two of the best impact bench forwards in the game, with the way they keep the momentum of their teams rolling crucial for both the Panthers and Storm.

And Leniu has vowed not to take a backward step against Asofa-Solomona, even after spending his teenage years looking up to the Melbourne giant.

"Obviously Nelson's a really big scary scary guy," Leniu said.

"If he comes off the bench, I'll be ready for war.

"Because if I don't bring my best, and he brings out more impact than I do, then it can change a lot of things and a lot of momentum for their team in their favour.

"He's going to try to bring as much impact as he can if he does come off the bench. That's what I'll be doing.

"I think it'll be a good spectacle for everyone to watch, us two going head to head. I'll be looking forward to the challenge for a good and nice little war."