Katoa: ‘We’re looking to finish on a high’

Published 2:00pm 16 August 2023

Katoa: ‘We’re looking to finish on a high’
Words by Kylie Knight
Main image: Courtesy of Dolphins Media/NRL

Isaiya Katoa has played more NRL games than he could have dreamed of at the beginning of the 2023 season, learning much about his game and how to mix it with the big boys.

He’s keen to finish the season on a high and wants to win the final three games of the regular season.

We chatted with him after training today. See the photo gallery from training at the end of this story.

“It’s a pretty positive group, so we’re looking to finish on a high and finish three from three. I know we have the belief in this group to go out and finish a good year,” Katoa said.

“We’ve been pretty disappointed with the last couple of weeks – losing games at the end by some close margins. It’s kind of given us a bit more fuel to go out finish off the season well … give the fans what they deserve. They’ve been turning out for us every week, no matter win or loss. It’s been pretty awesome to have those guys supporting us.”

The 19-year-old made his NRL debut in round one this season against the Roosters.

He has made 19 appearances for the Dolphins’ NRL side this season, making eight try assists and scoring one himself.

“It’s been a pretty surreal year. I’ve obviously played a few more games than I would have expected. It’s been awesome, it’s been a learning experience,” Katoa said.

“There’s been plenty of ups and downs this year … I was lucky enough to get a rest a couple of weeks ago, freshen up the body … as a young kid, that’s a pretty important part of longevity in this sport is keeping your body fresh.

“It’s been a learning experience and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Katoa: ‘We’re looking to finish on a high’
Sean O'Sullivan. Image courtesy of Dolphins Media/NRL

First-class mentors

He’s grateful to the coaching staff and senior players, including Sean O’Sullivan, Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima, who have guided him in his first NRL season.

“They’ve been massive in the development of my career in terms of playing half or hooker. It’s been awesome,” Katoa explains.

He will play at five-eighth again this week, partnering with Sean O’Sullivan in the halves. He worked with the No.7, Harrison Graham and Trai Fuller (18th man) on extra drills at training today and was one of the last to leave the training field.

So, what advice has Head Coach Wayne Bennett given him to keep a level head?

“Just keep backing myself on the field and also keep in mind the areas that I can keep improving on every week. He’s one of the first to congratulate me when I’m doing something well but he’s the first to kind of get up me if I’m not doing something so well,” Katoa explains.

“That’s what I’ve loved about having him as a coach. He’s always kept it really honest with me. He’s kind of been like that father figure in terms of keeping me in check and make sure I’m continuing to improve different areas of my game.”

Katoa said the biggest lesson he’s learned this season is to not underestimate opponents and how to handle losses.

“It has kind felt like we’ve played a grand final every weekend. There’s been a lot of close games, a lot of games that we would have loved to win in the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“That’s probably the biggest learning, trying to bounce back after a couple of losses … it can be pretty tough on the group, but I think we’ve had a pretty positive group and positive attitude towards getting better and wanting to learn more every week.”

Katoa: ‘We’re looking to finish on a high’

A work in progress

A drive to keep learning has been key to Katoa’s success this year and his confidence is growing.

“With as many games as I’ve played this year, it’s slowly built the confidence … playing against some pretty decent and some pretty big backrowers this year. It’s been a good challenge for me. I felt like I’ve been learning and improving every week but there’s always room to improve,” he said.

“Tackling some of those big boys, even some of the ones who might not be as tall and big … they’re still pretty tough.”

He’s excited about this weekend’s clash against Wests Tigers in Sydney (Saturday, 3pm) and the opportunity for other emerging players to have a chance to show what they can do.

There are five casualties from last weekend’s loss (30-14) to the Roosters: Connelly Lemuelu; Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow; Jeremy Marshall-King; Kenny Bromwich and Ray Stone.

Harrison Graham, Jack Bostock, JJ Collins, Mason Teague, Max Plath, Poasa Faamausili, Robert Jennings and Trai Fuller (18th man) have been named in the side to fill the gaps.

Katoa’s bodyguard Felise Kaufusi is a chance of playing after being involved in some contact training today. He suffered a hamstring strain last weekend.

“We have a couple of boys coming in to fill in for our injury crew but it’s a good opportunity for those guys to come in and showcase their talents this week. I’m pretty excited, actually, for the game on the weekend,” Katoa said.

See photos from training (click through)


Related Stories

Popular Stories

New Suttons Beach 'pavilion' revealed
News / Local

New Suttons Beach 'pavilion' revealed

The winning design in a competition to replace the iconic Suttons Beach pavilion, has been unveiled today by Moreton Bay City Council. ** Pictures, Video, Free to read **

Walk off the war within

Walk off the war within

Now in its fourth year, Walking Off the War Within will continue supporting veterans and the first responder community when the organisation holds its annual walk on June 29, raising awareness of mental health. Here's the details

Pangai Junior set for round 16 debut
News / Sport

Pangai Junior set for round 16 debut

Dolphins NRL Head Coach Wayne Bennett says new recruit Tevita Pangai Junior will play against the Storm in round 16, but first his side has to face a red-hot Sharks team in their first Sydney game of the season. Here’s what he had to say + photos from training