Napa's growing role boosts Roosters options
Roosters firebrand Dylan Napa's increasing workload is allowing his coach Trent Robinson more options in how he manages starting props Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Sam Moa, and the result is a massive headache for opposition forward packs.
The 22-year-old Queenslander debuted halfway through the 2013 season and quickly showed a complete disregard for the reputations of opponents, announcing himself with a monstrous shot on NSW and Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen.
But in the seven games he played in 2013 and the 24 he played in 2014 he was used off the bench as an impact player, rarely amassing much more than 20 minutes of game time.
That has all changed in 2015. Napa has averaged just over 40 minutes per game in his three games, with around 100 metres and 25 tackles per match.
It hasn't slowed down the big hits either. A bone-rattler on Panthers hooker James Segeyaro late on Monday night was the punctuation mark on another solid outing from Napa, who recently re-signed at Bondi until the end of 2017.
"It's good to get a shot like that but then again I am 30 [kilograms] heavier than him so it doesn't mean too much!" Napa laughed when NRL.com reminded him of the tackle which jolted the ball free at a time when Penrith were still a chance of building on some late momentum in the search for a shock comeback win.
"He's a good mate of mine so it was good to get one on him."
Napa revealed the increase in his minutes was part of a plan to hold back Waerea-Hargreaves until later in games, allowing the Kiwi enforcer to bring maximum impact to the final stages of matches.
"I'm just trying to do what I can for the team – a little bit more minutes [from me] means that Hargreaves can play a shorter stint at the end of the game where it's business time, so I'm just trying to do what I can," Napa said.
The effort also drew the praise of his coach.
"Napa was probably the standout [off the bench], that was a long stint, long minutes," Robinson said.
"Then to come back out at the end [and produce some] big plays – really big moment for Naps. I left him for a bit longer and he keeps getting the job done."
Such is the young prop's form, some pundits are tipping him for a Maroons jersey in the next year or two but Napa says he's not letting himself think that far ahead.
"I think if you ask any NRL player it's a goal of theirs to represent their state or their country but I'm not really looking into it too much, I'm just trying to do the best I can. If it happens it happens, it's all on me and how I perform," he said.
Most of the Roosters forward pack is now locked up for two or more years. Along with Napa, Waerea-Hargreaves recently re-signed through 2017, Evans and Aidan Guerra are also locked up until 2017, and Sam Moa last year re-signed through 2016, which is when Boyd Cordner's and Issac Liu's current deals runs through to.
Napa, who has been at the Roosters since he was 17, said he never really felt that he could leave the club.
"They've been so good to me and I've had the best opportunities so I'm stoked to be here til 2017," he said.
"That's the thing – a lot of us have re-signed or are signed until 2017 or '18. It's a good feeling, it's a great bunch of blokes and everyone has the best senses of humour – I have fun every day, we can't stop laughing at training and we all work hard together. It would have been really hard to leave."