Dolphins No.7 Katoa gets Bennett tick ahead of Tigers

Joel Gould |

Isaiya Katoa has overcome an early-season setback to be starring at halfback for the Dolphins.
Isaiya Katoa has overcome an early-season setback to be starring at halfback for the Dolphins.

Dolphins halfback Isaiya Katoa has been a central figure in the side’s rise into the top four and coach Wayne Bennett says his best is yet come.

The 21-year-old was overlooked for the Dolphins’ round-one clash against North Queensland with Sean O’Sullivan preferred.

Katoa was rushed back into the side for the round-two win over St George Illawarra and ever since has been in top form and one of the first picked.

Elite former halves, turned commentators, Cooper Cronk and Andrew Johns have been effusive in their praise of Katoa’s game management and skillset.

He will wear the No.7 in the last game of Magic Round on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium as a key member of a side that has found their mojo.

“The team has grown and Isaiya has grown with the team,” Bennett said.

“It is virtually the same team we had last year apart from Herbie Farnworth and Jake Averillo.

“The whole team is better, (Katoa) is better and that has been the big shift for me.”

Isaiya Katoa.
Isaiya Katoa finds himself in open space during the round-five win over the Tigers. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

Bennett said it was a “close decision” when he left Katoa out in round one for O’Sullivan.

“There was nothing between them and I made another decision after that game,” Bennett said.

“He is is young and still has so much to learn and improve. What we do know is that he has got the ability to do that and we will see a better player next year.”

Queensland representative Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow returns at fullback from a month’s absence with a hamstring injury, replacing Trai Fuller who did a great job filling in.

The Tigers have lost their last six games and were beaten 26-16 by the Dolphins in round five.

Bennett’s men had to work hard to prevail on that occasion and the coach said he expected another tough clash.

“They are a competitive football team,” he said.