David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Kata determined to win heavyweight midfield duel

Solomone Kata is looking forward to clashing with former teammate Konrad Hurrell. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Solomone Kata is looking forward to clashing with former teammate Konrad Hurrell. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Warriors centre Solomone Kata will never forget the help he received from Konrad Hurrell but is determined to put one over his friend and former teammate in Sunday's NRL clash against the Gold Coast Titans.

The pair will oppose each other for the first time in a heavyweight midfield battle at Cbus Super Stadium, with Kata marking the man he effectively overtook as the Warriors first-choice centre over the last two seasons.

The Tongan internationals share many similarities, both in their granite-like physiques and powerful running styles, and each will have a point to prove after enjoying a healthy rivalry during their time together at Mt Smart Stadium.

While eager to dominate their personal contest, Kata remains grateful for Hurrell's work as make-shift interpreter, when he helped communicate coach Andrew McFadden's instructions and expectations upon his promotion to the Warriors NRL squad at the start of last year.

Like Hurrell before him, Kata arrived in New Zealand from Tonga in 2011and was a standout schoolboy rugby star before switching codes to join the Warriors in 2013.

"He was my good mate and the one who was there to explain everything Cappy (McFadden) would say," said Kata. "I'd go over to his house and have a feed with him and his brother. I wouldn't even knock, just open the door, walk in and have something to eat.

"I'm grateful for everything he did for me but it's going to be good to play against him this weekend."

Since debuting in round one of last season, Kata has been a near constant presence on the Warriors left edge, playing 42 of a possible 43 matches, missing just one game through suspension earlier this season after 34 consecutive outings. He finished 2015 as the Warriors top try-scorer (12) and again leads the pack, together with Shaun Johnson and David Fusitu'a, with 10 four-pointers so far this season.

The 21-year-old's composure and reliability on both attack and defence differentiated him from Hurrell's equally dynamic but sometimes erratic performances.

His rapid rise in status contributed to Hurrell falling out of favour but Kata insists there was never any ill-feeling between the pair.

"We wouldn't really talk about it like 'oh, you're playing'," he said. "We'd stick together and help each other out on defence and every training we'd go at it. He'd run at me and I'd defend against him and then we'd swap."

Meanwhile, Hurrell has found a new lease of life on Queensland's holiday strip after being shown the door by the Warriors in late May, following a tumultuous final three months that saw him make just three appearances off the bench.

In four games for his new club the 24-year-old has quickly rediscovered the type of form that saw him attain cult status among NRL fans, showcasing his strength, speed and offloading ability to add a new dimension to the Titans attack.

Kata's defensive combinations with five-eighth Thomas Leuluai and wing Manu Vatuvei will be key to limiting Hurrell's impact.

"I've got to make sure I get Konny every time he gets the ball and I know Manu trusts me. We've been working together pretty well but we need more communication because the last couple games he's set up tries with his flick pass."

- NZ Herald

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