While Jarryd Hayne’s signing dominates almost all pre-match discussion, another storyline has generated ample interest ahead of the Vodafone Warriors’ 22nd-round encounter with Gold Coast at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday (2.00pm kick-off local time; 4.00pm NZT).
It’s an all-Tonga head-to-head in what is sure to be an engrossing contest within the overall battle.
On the left edge for the Vodafone Warriors will be powerful 22-year-old Solomone Kata, one of the outstanding success stories to come out of the club’s development system.
And opposing him will be Gold Coast’s specialist right centre and ex-Vodafone Warrior Konrad Hurrell, who has his 25th birthday tomorrow (Friday).
It’s a clash which promises to deliver the strongest dose imaginable of aggressive ball carrying and heavy contact. Buckle up.
These two began the year as team-mates before Hurrell moved to the Titans in May, ending a little more than four NRL seasons with Vodafone Warriors which netted 41 tries in 71 appearances.
Hurrell had an explosive beginning to his NRL career in 2012 and Kata has been just as quick to make his mark – and keep making it.
He opened his NRL innings in round one last season and has since missed just one of a possible 43 games for the club (and then only through suspension).
He was the club’s top try scorer last year with 12 and had 10 in his first 12 games this season to lift his career tally to 22 in just 36 appearances to that point.
While he hasn't crossed the line since his 14th-round effort against the Knights, Kata has maintained his overall performance standards impressively.
He has topped 2000 metres in 18 matches, averaging 111 metres a game compared with 112 metres last year, is among the top 10 of all players for tackle breaks with 82 and is equal top among centres for most line breaks with 12.
While on par with his running metres, Kata has significantly improved his defence with just 20 missed tackles so far this season (or one a game on average) compared with an average of a little more than two missed tackles a game last year. He has also made only 12 errors this season.