Sharks rookie Katoa firms for round one selection
A tackle-busting, try-scoring trial performance by rookie Cronulla Sharks winger Sione Katoa has put him well in the frame for a Telstra Premiership debut in round one.
From all reports, the 20-year-old has been highly impressive through the pre-season, though he had a less-than-impressive start to the club's opening trial of 2018 when out-jumped by opposite Brad Parker for Manly's for the first try of the match.
However, the New Zealand-born flanker quickly made amends, showing great speed and footwork to step through two Manly defenders to score from a Chad Townsend pass.
Katoa was unlucky not to be awarded a second four-pointer after blitzing through a group of defenders to plant the ball down in the second half only to have match officials rule he had lost the ball in the act of shrugging past the last man before planting the ball over the line.
In between he showed a willingness to venture infield and help out the forwards, producing a number of handy charges in the middle of the field.
After the match, his coach Shane Flanagan was happy to talk up the rookie's chances.
"I think he scored [that second try], everyone's telling me that was a try down in that corner so he did real well to get there. But he's a fantastic runner of the football, he's going to get better each week, he's an exciting ball carrier," Flanagan said.
"If he gets half a break it's going to be a try, so really looking forward to him playing more football."
Fans will get a better idea of Katoa's place in the pecking order when a near full-strength Sharks side is named for their final trial, against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown.
"We'll trot out the big boys out next week, the [Andrew] Fifitas, Wade Graham, Luke Lewis, Matty Prior, Ricky Leutele, [Josh] Dugan, all of them will play next week so I'm expecting the Tigers will probably do the same and I'm expecting a real complete performance to send us into a tough first round against the Cowboys up there," Flanagan said.
In the absence of those big name forwards, the likes of Sefa Paulo, Kurt Capewell and new signings Ava Seumanufagai and Braden Uele were all strong against Manly.
"Yeah, they pumped out some minutes today and did a really good job. Young Kurt Dillon in the front row did a good job as well so three front rowers are pushing the other two boys to get a starting spot," Flanagan said.