KATA THE NEXT BEAST
Written by TONY ADAMS, July 12, 2015
IN New Zealand they’re already calling him ‘The Beast 2.0’ – and Solomone Kata is showing the hallmarks of terrorising defences the way Warriors legend Manu Vatuvei has for the past decade.
Even though the 20-year-old barely speaks English and has been playing league for only two full seasons, the burly Kata has quickly become a cult figure with the Kiwi crowds.
“He’s got a long way to go, but there are similarities with Manu, for sure,” Warriorslegend Stacey Jones says.
“He’s a real handful and knows his way to the tryline.
“He’s come a long way in a short time and he’s not afraid of anything.
“We’re excited about him – he’s something special.
“He has a low centre of gravity, takes a power of stopping and can pass the ball. With all his skills, we weren’t sure where to play him – we thought about halfback or hooker, but he’s a natural centre and has been great there.
“And it hasn’t come easy – his English is very limited and he has had to move from the village to the big city and learn a new game.
“But he just takes it all in his stride. Nothing seems to worry him.”
Kata was born and raised in Tonga with 11 siblings before moving to Auckland on a scholarship at Sacred Heart College to play rugby union.
The Warriors quickly saw his potential and he switched to league in 2013, starring in last year’s NYC grand final with a first-half hat-trick that earned him the Jack Gibson Medal as man of the match.
Raw and unheralded, Kata announced himself in the Auckland Nines and has hit the NRL like a breath of fresh air.
“No way did I expect him to be a regular first-grader even a few months ago,”Warriors coach Andrew McFadden admits.
“But we had a few injuries, there was an opportunity there and he seized upon it.
“He’s got better every week, which for a 20-year-old with limited experience is a big plus.
“He’s full of confidence and has been a great find for us – and the exciting thing is he should only get better.”
The Warriors showed their high regard for Kata recently when they upgraded and extended his contract and are doing their best to assure the youngster assimilates with team-mates in his new environment.
“He’s fortunate that there’s a strong Tongan culture within the club,” Jones explains.
“The more experienced guys like Manu have really taken him under their wings.
“In the back line alone, Tuimoala Lolohea, Manu and Konrad Hurrell also come from a Tongan background and they have helped make him feel at home.
“The NRL can be a tough place for a kid with his background, but he has embraced it and is just enjoying himself.
“The other guys all like playing with him and that’s always a good sign.”