Waikato Times

Brown tips Katoa to bounce back

- David Long david.long@stuff.co.nz

Warriors coach Nathan Brown doesn’t anticipate Eliesa Katoa’s demotion to reserve grade football to last too long.

The second rower, who was one of the standouts for the Warriors last season, has been dropped from the NRL squad for Sunday’s game against the Dragons.

The 21-year-old from Tonga will instead run out for the Redcliffe Dolphins in the Queensland Cup, but Brown says he still has confidence in Katoa’s ability.

‘‘Eli has only played about 20 rugby league games in his whole life. So to come from rugby union and do what he did last year was very rare,’’ Brown said.

‘‘It’s more about his developmen­t and allowing him to play a game at a lower speed, so he can work hard on some of the small parts of his game.

‘‘He’s a wonderful talent and we don’t expect him to be back there for long.

‘‘It doesn’t change our opinion of Eli in anyway or where we see him going forward.

‘‘He’s an outstandin­gly talented player and we know he’s going to have a great future at the club.’’

Katoa’s average run metres has dropped from 99 to 58 this season and against the Sea Eagles in the 13-12 loss last weekend he ran the ball just six times for 47 metres.

Certainly, Katoa isn’t making the same impact as he was last year.

Whether defences have worked him out is a possibilit­y, but Brown said he didn’t think it was a case of second-year syndrome.

‘‘Not at all,’’ he said. ‘‘Last year I suppose the depth in the club and the injuries they had, Mooks [Stephen Kearney] lost a fair few blokes.

‘‘So it was a very difficult time for the club, so blokes like Eli got a very early start, where if the club had been fully fit last year Eli probably would have started in the Q Cup, instead of first-grade.’’

For this weekend’s game Brown has selected Jack Murchie and Josh Curran as his starting second rowers, with the latter making a rare appearance in the first-grade team.

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