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Brown expects Katoa to grow from reserve-grade stint

Nathan Brown says a stint in reserve grade is necessary for Eliesa Katoa but expects the back-rower to quickly force his way back into the Warriors NRL team.

Katoa, a surprise omission from coach Brown's team to face St George Illawarra on Sunday, is set to turn out in the Queensland Cup for the Redcliffe Dolphins - the Warriors' feeder team.

A rugby union product, Katoa only switched to league a couple of years ago and the majority of his experience has come in 18 NRL games after jumping straight from Jersey Flegg to the big time.

"Eli's only played roughly about 20 rugby league games in his whole life. To come from rugby union and do what he did last year, it's very, very rare," Brown said via Zoom on Wednesday.

"A top-line rugby union player would come to an NRL side and play some reserve grade. It's just more about his development and allowing him to play at a lower speed so he can work hard on the small parts of the game. He's a wonderful talent.

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"We don't expect him to be there [in reserve grade] long, whether it's a week or two or three. It doesn't change our opinion of Eli in any way and where we see him going forward."

Brown said his decision to drop Katoa wasn't a reaction to back-to-back losses to the Roosters and Sea Eagles.

Katoa regularly played 80 minutes in his debut season but has done so only once in 2021, perhaps explaining why his average metres with the ball have decreased from 99 to 58 per game.

"If the club had have been fully fit last year, Eli probably would have started in [reserve grade] instead of first grade," Brown said.

"It's not a second-year syndrome because his game certainly hasn't gone backwards. But we're in a situation where we've got some other people putting their hand up and Eli needs to tidy up a few areas."

Meanwhile, Warriors sponsor Best Foods has launched The Locker Room - an exclusive online program where fans can access money-can't-buy experiences, discounts and prizes.

Offers in the program include VIP viewing experiences at Mt Smart Stadium, Train Like a Warrior (a six-month nutrition and fitness program), the chance to meet players digitally and more.

With the team based on the NSW Central Coast until June 21, The Locker Room will help keep New Zealand-based fans connected.

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"The team has had a strong start to the season but it’s bittersweet celebrating away from our army of supporters in New Zealand," Warriors GM commercial Glenn Critchley said. 

Monica Reyes from Best Foods added: "It's important for us to find ways for Kiwi fans to support the boys.

"Our goal is to give fans this exciting opportunity where they can enjoy a variety of up close and unexpected experiences with the Vodafone Warriors.

"Even when they aren't able to watch the games in person, we want to give them memorable moments where they can come together to show their collective pride."


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