Hayne Plane casts Tongan duel into shade

When Warriors centre Solomone Kata needed a friend, compatriot Konrad Hurrell was there.

The Tongan powerhouse has made an explosive start to life in the NRL, scoring 22 tries over two years and cementing a spot in his side’s starting XIII.

But Kata, 21, has never forgotten the man who helped him reach the top.

Ex-Warrior Hurrell was Kata’s point of reference upon joining the first-grade dressing room, translating coaching instructions and providing tactical advice.

Now the pair, both hard-running centres, will face each other as foes on the field when the Warriors take on Gold Coast on Sunday.

“When he was there, I was lucky enough to have Konrad by my side,” Kata told NZN.

“In my first year he was the main one helping me with my game and my communication with the coaches, translating everything for me.”

The 25-year-old Hurrell left the Warriors in May after making only three 2016 NRL appearances and breaching team protocol on a post-match night out in Auckland.

Head coach Andrew McFadden said on Thursday he remained comfortable with his decision to let Hurrell go, but Kata knew he was in for a challenge.

He would do everything necessary to prevent his friend from crossing the line.

“He’s probably the hardest runner in the competition so I’ll just do whatever I can to stop him and put him off,” Kata said.

“I’ll be aggressive and won’t give him any time in the game.”

McFadden said Kata had consistently excelled for the Auckland-based outfit and could develop into an NRL star.

Further improvement was on the cards.

“He’s only in his second year and he’s pretty much played every game in that time, so he’s doing an incredible job and we’ve got a lot of faith,” McFadden said.

Sunday’s duel between the two Tongans has since been overshadowed by the Titans’ acquisition of star fullback Jarryd Hayne on a two-year deal.

The 28-year-old Hayne Plane is expected to help secure the seventh-placed Titans an NRL finals berth and improve the club’s profile on and off the park.

Kata was glad to see such a high-profile player back in the NRL but felt his side’s team spirit would see them through the encounter.

The eighth-placed Warriors had top eight ambitions of their own.

“When all the boys get together I feel confident,” Kata said.

“We’re like brothers.”

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