Of all the match-ups in Canberra this Saturday – and there are so many mouth-watering ones – quite likely the best of them all will centre on Solomone Kata.
Since his debut in the opening round of the 2014 season the explosive Tongan has missed just one of a possible 41 matches, which just happened to be the Vodafone Warriors’ ‘home’ game against the Raiders in New Plymouth on May 21.
Kata was serving a one-match suspension at the time preventing a much-anticipated head-on clash in the centres between the Vodafone Warriors' No 1 centre and Canberra’s Joey Leilua.
So belatedly Kata has the chance this week to measure up to Leilua in a contest which matches club against club and nation against nation.
They were involved in three encounters last season, twice when Leilua was still with the Newcastle Knights and then when he was with Canberra later in the campaign.
Kata had a brilliant rookie year, appearing in each of the Vodafone Warriors’ 24 games. He was the club’s leading try-scoring with 12, one ahead of Manu Vatuvei who had been the top scorer for eight seasons on end since 2007. Averaging 112.45 metres a game, he made 12 line breaks and was on the field for all but 11 minutes of the season.
Leilua's metres per game average was 107 in a total of 19 games for the Knights and the Raiders while he scored six tries and made seven line breaks.
Kata has maintained the rage in 2016. His try-scoring strike rate is slightly ahead of what it was last year with 10 in 16 games while his metres per game average is close to identical at 112.25 and he has already made 12 line breaks.
Leilua, in tandem with his wing partner Jordan Rapana, has formed a lethal right edge for the fifth-placed Raiders this year. His average metres per game are up to 124.13 but he doesn’t match Kata’s tally for tries or line breaks with just four of each.
Leilua has a height and weight advantage on Kata; Leilua is 185cm and is listed at 106kg (which seems a little light) while Kata is 177cm and 97kg.
It won’t make any difference to this battle, though, which promises to be something special, even more so with Rapana and Vodafone Warriors try-scoring record holder Manu Vatuvei set to go head-to-head on the wings ouside Leilua and Kata.