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  • Stewart Moses

Katoa’s new deal a reward for perseverance

It may not have ended in the result he would have liked, but Sione Katoa’s first run-out game in just his third NRL appearance, capped a great week for the 22-year old former Junior Kiwi and current Tongan international, having recently re-signed with the club until the end of 2019.

The hooker said it was an easy decision to remain the club given the security it provides for his young family as well as wanting to remain playing alongside the core group of players that have made it to the NRL side since being a member of the 2015 Holden Cup winning squad.

“It’s good for me and my family as we now know we are settled,” Katoa told Nepean News.

“They’ve (the club) done a lot for me and my family so it’s good to know I’ll be here for another two years.

“Also there’s a pretty good young group of us coming through here with heaps of talent that I’ve come through (Under) 20s and ISP with so it was pretty easy for me to decide to stay on.”

The deal in itself reflects just how far Katoa has come, given that by his own admission he came into 2017 with plenty to prove after having a poor 2016 season where ill-discipline hampered his form.

But with the help of his coaches Garth Brennan, who rewarded the hooker with the Intrust Super Premiership captaincy on the back of a strong pre-season, along with Anthony Griffin, Katoa had renewed belief that his form would result in being elevated to the top grade once again, having made his NRL debut against Newcastle nearly two years earlier.

“It’s came down to me having a big pre-season and then just playing good footy during the year, playing off the back of the ISP boys and then getting the rewards to play up here with the big boys,” Katoa said.

“They (Brennan and Griffin) have been a big part of my improvement from 2016.

“They’ve been positive, always giving me tips on what I need to work on and I’m looking to taking my game further over the next two years, with these two coaches.”

Photos: 77 Media

Katoa also admitted there was a big difference in playing a full game in the NRL to what he had experienced in his previous two appearances, but despite the result relished the opportunity to do so.

“Hook spoke to me and said that he wanted me to be that 80 minute hooker out there especially if I want to continue playing first grade," Katoa said.

“My other two (games) I probably played about forty (minutes) max.

“But while the result was disappointing, it was really good test for me out there and I took it with both hands."

Having now re-signed for another two years, Katoa is under no illusion that competition for that first grade hooking role remains as fierce as ever, battling alongside the likes of Rein and the injured Peter Wallace.

But it’s a challenge Katoa is willing to accept despite being equally at home in other playing positions.

“I can cover a lot of positions like lock, back-row, halves,” Katoa declared.

“But for me hooker is still my number one preferred position.

“Ultimately I want to be playing first grade and be playing as hooker.”

Despite the competition for that hooking spot, Katoa says there is plenty to gain from playing with the likes of Rein and Wallace and is grateful for the advice and guidance afforded to him by the experienced pair.

“They’ve been really helpful just teaching me a few tips and guiding me off the field as well,” Katoa said.

“(Especially) to stay composed especially when times get tough.

“The forwards look to you to get them rolling so that’s probably the main one.

“They’re two massive people I look up to as a hooker and have done it all (in the game) and they’ve been really good for me."

#NRLPanthersManly #NRLRabbitohsPanthers #NRL #PenrithPanthers #SioneKatoa

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