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Rookie watch: Naitokatoka ready to bring Fiji magic to Eels

Ahead of the rescheduled NRL Telstra Women's Premiership, profiles the next crop of talent ready to make their mark in 2022.

Rookie snapshot

  • Name: Sereana Naitokatoka
  • Age: 20
  • NRLW club: Eels
  • Position: Five-eighth/Halfback

Decked out with a Steeden headgear, Sereana Naitokatoka is a free-spirited playmaker on the rise after idolising former Dragons five-eighth and now NRLW coach Jamie Soward coming through the women's junior systems. 

Born in Suva, the Fijian playmaker, who captains the women's national side Fiji Bulikula, moved to western Sydney with her family as a child and began playing rugby league in her brother's team aged seven.

"He's two years older than me so I would play up two age groups," Naitokatoka told 

"But then I hit 12 and stopped playing until one of my aunt's said there was an under 15s girls team. It was when footy really began to start again for girls."

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That's where Naitokatoka met Eels teammates and NSW representatives Filomina and Fatefehi Hanisi, with older sibling Filomina leaving a lasting impression on the young gun.

"Mina concussed me when I was 15 and since then I've worn headgear," Naitokatoka said.

"And when I was younger my whole family went for Parra but I went for the Dragons because Jamie Soward wore the headgear, he was the kicker and five-eighth as well.

"I wanted to be like him. When I heard he was the Dragons coach I had to read it three times because I couldn't believe it."

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Naitokatoka is still as starstruck as she sounds with her own Eels teammates too, many of whom she's played with or against in the Harvey Norman NSW Premiership.

Her likely halves partners at the Eels include NSW halfback Maddie Studdon and another up-and-coming playmaker Emily Curtain.

"When we met each other for the first time it was scary. I saw Maddie Studdon and thought 'oh shit, I'm training and playing with Maddie', and then she started talking to me and I'm just staring at her thinking like 'bro, is she talking to me?'."

All star-glazing aside, Naitokatoka understands the need to step up in her maiden NRLW campaign after impressing for Mounties at the state competition level in previous seasons.

The 20-year-old is one of 13 possible NRLW debutantes in the Eels squad for the rescheduled 2021 competition with close mates Jocephy Daniels and Taina Navidi also earning call-ups.

"For me, it's all about unity. If Maddie or Emily and I have that good mindset and bond that if nothing is happening on my edge then we're going to set each other up," she said. 

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"The connection has to be flexible there. If we have nothing and are just looking at each other the whole team is going to be lost.

"Every time I train with them I'll make sure I've got that bond. Having the sisterhood on and off the field is really important too. It's always the best experience when you have that."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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