Dolphins teen Katoa embraces Phil Jauncey mental skills

Joel Gould |

Dolphins deep-thinking debutant Isaiya Katoa says advice from renowned sports psychologist Phil Jauncey helped him overcome an early error to shine at No.6 on NRL debut in the historic 28-18 win over Sydney Roosters.

Jauncey has been close to Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett for decades and worked with the champion Brisbane Broncos teams in the 1990s with great success. Now he is helping the Dolphins.

Katoa, 19, made a mistake at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday when he tried to control the ball from a set restart on his boot, but it ricocheted back to the Roosters and they scored to take a 12-6 lead. 

That could have dented the Tongan international’s confidence but he backed himself. In the second half, he ran the ball on the last tackle to set up a try for winger Jamayne Isaako, and played a key role in Isaako’s second.

“How to get back to ‘Plan A’ is what Phil calls it,” Katoa explained.

“Phil has this thing called ‘not going to Plan Z’. It is about being more process-focused and sticking with ‘Plan A’. That is where you are playing your best footy.

“It is not the mistake that counts but it is about my response after the mistake. That is something I am still learning.

“Phil has been a massive influence in the way I think about preparing for a game. Then when I am in a game, it is about staying in the game.”

Bennett and assistant coach Kristian Woolf reinforce similar ideals and back Katoa to play his style.

“With (halfback) Sean (O’Sullivan) being the dominant half, it frees me up to play more eyes-up footy and react on the go. I have always been an instinctive player,” he said.

“It was incredible (to win on debut). What an amazing atmosphere.”

The Dolphins host Canberra in Redcliffe on Saturday when Jauncey’s influence will be felt again through his young pupil.

“Phil got us to do a survey to identify who we are as a person and gave us a rating on what our personalities are like,” Katoa said.

“It was awesome to see how he could break that up and make us understand ourselves a bit better.

“I am a feeler/thinker. He actually said that going into games we are keeping to ourselves but probably 10 or 15 minutes before we run out for warm-up we have got to come out of our shells and talk a bit more.

“That is something that naturally I already do. I didn’t realise it was a thing. He has pointed that out, that as we get closer to the game I will get around the boys and talk more about processes in the game and what we are looking for.

“It was awesome to see that is what he wants me to do – to build up gradually to the game and not get too stressed and emotionally drained.”