Katoa riding rollercoaster in rookie season at Sharks
Sione Katoa, the rookie try-scorer in the middle of Cronulla's controversial win over the Raiders, has experienced more in his first seven games than the usual introduction to the Telstra Premiership.
Katoa is a man of few words but has left such an impression on Sharks coach Shane Flanagan that he's maintained his spot over NRL regular Aaron Gray and premiership-winning winger Sosaia Feki throughout the second half of the season.
Katoa tallied 44 tries in 49 appearances across a two-year period in the Holden Cup after joining the Sharks from the Parramatta system in 2016.
He signed a two-year extension with the club last week and is viewed as a long-term prospect on the right flank.
"The Sharks offered me to train with them and start playing some games in the 20s," Katoa told NRL.com.
"I had no offer at Parramatta, there were no other players in that side that have played NRL yet. It's been good, I'm really enjoying it, just getting some game time. Hopefully, I can stay in first grade for the rest of the year.
"Off the field, I like to keep to myself. I'm different on the field, you have to talk more and do a job."
A broken jaw on debut in round one – the same game he lined up opposite Johnathan Thurston in the champion playmaker's 300th NRL appearance - proved a setback for the 20-year-old, who returned through the Intrust Super Premiership.
"Thankfully it wasn't a bad one like others who break their jaw, I was only drinking through a straw for a week," Katoa said.
"Had a lot of soup, mash potato, heaps of juice. I started eating to speed my recovery up a little bit."
Katoa's latest four-pointer against the Raiders has had his name in the headlines for the past week, albeit for indirect circumstances as the focus turned to the Referees' Bunker.
"I didn't know what happened at the time, just picked up the ball and started running," Katoa said.
"Everyone stopped, I tried to look back and they were telling me to keep going and put the ball down anyway.
"I just played to the whistle and kept going. I would have probably got in trouble of Flanno if I didn't."
The Sharks take on Brisbane in Thursday night's vital clash and Katoa only has to cast his mind back to round 15 when Broncos winger Corey Oates scored one of the acrobatic tries of the season.
It will be the first occasion Katoa plays at Suncorp Stadium in front of a crowd in excess of 20,000 people.
"He's a tall and strong lad, got the size over me," Katoa said of his opposite flyer.
"The last time we played them he was powerful. I have to get one back on him."