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The NRL 2022 season will commence this week, and the Vodafone Warriors are locked and loaded for yet another season away from home. Currently based in Redcliffe, Queensland, the team are heading into their third campaign under Covid-19 restrictions which have kept the team separated from families and loved ones in New Zealand.
Despite this, second rower Eliesa Katoa believes that they are ready to get on the field and have some game time.
“It’s been good. Obviously last year we had two different groups due to Covid, one here in Australia and one in New Zealand. We are just looking forward to playing as a group and for the season to start for us,” says Katoa.
Eliesa or “Eli”, first made his big rise in the NRL in 2020. Bursting onto the scene with a background in rugby union, he quickly became a household name within the rugby league scene. The Tongan born athlete has made a lot of noise in the NRL in the past two years considering his limited experience in the sport. As he prepares for his third year with the Warriors, Katoa sets his sights on bigger goals and improvements on himself in order to deliver the best performance for the club.
“For myself, I want to stay away from injuries and to just play my best and be healthy,”
“We want to win games as a team this year too, and I believe we have the players to do that for us.”
Being separated from his family has been a challenge for Katoa. His family back in Tonga have been affected by the volcano eruption and tsunami that hit the islands earlier this year.
“Moving here to Redcliffe was extremely hard at first for me and the boys especially being away from families. We have a good support team here though so we are well looked after and taken care of,”
“For my family in Tonga, I have managed to secure contact with them and it has been good since the eruption”
The Warriors head into this year’s competition with a much needed boost following the re-signing of Kiwi superstar Shaun Johnson. After leaving the Warriors in 2018 for Cronulla, Johnson makes an anticipated return to the Warriors starting lineup this week for their first match of the season.
For Katoa, he is relishing the experience Johnson has brought to camp since his arrival.
“He brings a lot to the table with his experience and he manages the game really well. Just being around him, especially since I watched him when I was younger, is pretty exciting.”
The Warriors kick off their campaign this year on Saturday against the St George Illawarra Dragons at 7:30pm (NZ time).