NRL: Ex-NZ Warriors forward Eliesa Katoa has chance for last laugh against former side in Anzac Day clash

One of their own could return to hurt NZ Warriors on Anzac Day, with new Melbourne Storm forward Eliesa Katoa threatening to be another one that got away.

Despite enjoying a breakout season with the Warriors in 2020, backrower Katoa struggled to find consistency in his three seasons playing for the Auckland side.

With the club not having a reserve-grade side during their COVID-19 stint in Australia, Katoa struggled for gametime under then-coach Nathan Brown, as he learned rugby league, after playing union in his youth.

The Tongan-born forward was granted a release from the last two years of his Warriors contract to join Melbourne and hasn't looked back since under the guidance of Craig Bellamy.

Already this year, Katoa, 23, has made 227 tackles, at a success rate of just under 92 percent, and averages 129 running metres per game with ball in hand.

Katoa will start for the Storm against his former side, named in the back row for the traditional Anzac Day clash.

Still coming to grips with what it means to play for the Storm, Bellamy couldn't be happier with what he's already seen from Katoa.

"He's been going really good," said Bellamy. "He's getting used to the people around him in the position he plays.

"He's got a really good combination now with Jahrome [Hughes], Reimis [Smith] and Will [Warbrick] on that side, and Nick [Meaney] at the back.

"He's done a great job, he's a great talent. His defence has certainly improved and he's doing a good job for us there."

Bellamy knows there's still plenty to come.

Katoa's form would just be another example of a player improving after leaving the Warriors, and he has the chance to make his former side regret letting him go. 

Eliesa Katoa for the Warriors (2022).
Eliesa Katoa for the Warriors (2022). Photo credit: Photosport

"I expect him to get better and better there, to be quite honest," Bellamy added. "He can reach for the sky, because he is a really talented kid.

"He was playing some really great footy for the Warriors there 2-3 years ago and basically fell off the end of the earth.

"He's been doing a great job for us. Hopefully, he can continue that." 

Join Newshub at 9pm Tuesday for live updates of the Warriors v Storm Anzac Day clash or catch live coverage on Three and Three Now