Rugby league: Warriors coach Nathan Brown reveals why he dropped gun NRL second rower Eliesa Katoa
Warriors coach Nathan Brown has confirmed that gun second rower Eliesa Katoa has been dropped due to form reasons, with the hope he can develop his game in reserve grade.
After starting the first five games this year, Katoa didn’t even make the extended bench for the team named to face the Dragons on Sunday, and will play in the second-tier competition this weekend.
It’s quite a turnaround, but not entirely unexpected.
Katoa was a revelation in his rookie season last year and quickly became one of the first picked every week.
Injuries meant he played only 13 games, but the 1.93m, 110kg former Tamaki College 1st XV product was an intimidating weapon on the edge, with six tries and three line breaks. He averaged 100 running metres, from a heavy workload of almost 70 minutes a match.
This year has been different.
Like many before him, Katoa has struggled to replicate the same impact in his second season. A cheekbone injury compromised his pre-season, while his output since has been down, as opposition teams have targeted his threat.
“He is a young fella and people tend to forget he has probably only played 20 odd rugby league games in his whole career,” Brown told Newstalk ZB.
“I’ve thought for a while it would be good for Eli to play some [Queensland] Cup this season. Learning your trade in the NRL – that’s the hardest spot you can learn it.
“I’ve coached lots of young kids and sometimes you just drop them back for a couple of games; it’s just how you develop as a player. It’s the best way you develop, rather than forcing them to play NRL every week.”
Brown suggested that it wouldn’t be a long apprenticeship.
“He’ll get to play a lot of minutes back there,” said Brown. “I don’t think he will be gone for too long. It will be just nice for him to play at a bit of a different pace, different level and work on a couple of small things to come back up and continue to grow his game.”
Brown is optimistic about the prospects for wing David Fusitu’a, who has been ruled out with a hamstring injury.
“It’s more of a short term one, we believe at this stage,” said Brown. “We will wait and see how he progresses through his rehab. It’s certainly not a long term one, but how long he will actually be we are not 100 per cent sure.”
Centre Marcelo Montoya has so far passed his concussion protocols, after a head knock in the second half of last Friday’s 13-12 loss to the Sea Eagles and is expected to play.
Prop Jamayne Taunoa-Brown has been named on the extended bench but may come into the equation.
“We are going to make up our mind on our 17 or 18 over the next couple of days,” said Brown. “We’ve got a good long week of training to see where blokes are at”
Adding more punch to their attack is a major focus, after a dreadful offensive display last Friday, where they couldn’t make the most of long periods inside Manly territory.
“We need to look at what we are trying to do there,” said Brown. “That goal-line attack is where we are obviously not getting it quite right at the moment. Do we tinker with it, or do we keep working hard at what we are doing?
“We are working hard, like all sides, on our defence. Sometimes when you have a lot of focus on one thing, you do take your eye off the ball elsewhere. So it is about getting both parts of the game right.
“But if you are not defending well you are in trouble, so we need to keep improving that part of our game whilst we work out which is our best way to attack inside that red zone.”
Brown suggested that the injury enforced changes to combinations hadn’t helped, allied with poor option taking on the field last Friday.
He has faith in the current spine and said “chopping and changing” would be counterproductive.
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