Catchpole Contenders: Nacina set to soar after breakout year

by Declan Armstrong

West Harbour Head Coach, Mark Gudmunson, says the evolution of Kaliova Nacina in season 2021 is the result of an improved lifestyle routine from the star backrower.

The 30-year-old is another player expected to be in contention for this seasons Ken Catchpole Medal, thanks to a streak of damaging attacking performances on the flank, including a two try effort against the Two Blues in Round Eight. 

Gudmunson says Nacina’s improved output is thanks in part to the flankers heightened attitude towards diet and fitness. 

“There’s no doubt he’s taken it to another level this year,” said Gudmunson. 

“The direction we gave him in preseason was focused towards applying himself in all aspects of the game, including what he eats and how he prepares. 

“He’s [Nacina] always had that Fijian flair and natural strength, but he’s really adjusted to focusing on what he consumes and how he recovers. 

“Kali is a player we need playing 80-minutes. If he’s on the park for an entire game we’re a better side.” 

Gudmunson also admits that Nacina, a natural introvert within the Pirates squad, has begun to find his voice and increase his strategic input within the team. 

“There’s no doubt he’s much more vocal this season,” he said. 

“Kali is one of those individuals that when he speaks, you know it’s going to be something of value and critique. 

“One of the reasons he’s been able to improve is because he’s begun to ask questions.

“He’s beginning to delve into the specifics of the game, where previously he’s just been running on his pure talent.” 

While Nacina’s dogged defence is a notable aspect to his game, the breakaways ability to slot into the West Harbour attack and create with ball in hand is pivotal to Gudmunson’s game style. 

“He’s certainly one of our big attacking threats,” Gudmunson said. 

“The reason he dominates games like the Two Blues fixture is thanks to his ability to gain space and create. 

“If he’s not putting himself in the position to get his hands on the ball, we’re not the team we want to be.

“Defenders are worried about what he’s going to do which consequently opens the door for our outside attackers.” 

Another Pirate who has caught the eye of Gudmunson and Catchpole voters alike is towering lock Otto-Louis Wendt. 

The set piece specialist has improved his attacking work rate in season 2021, continually gifting the Pirates forward momentum with strong carries with ball in hand. 

Gudmunson, who has coached Wendt since he entered the West Harbour Colts system in 2012, says the lock is now beginning to reach his immense talent. 

“Otto has been a big work in progress for us,” he said. 

“I’ve been lucky enough to watch his development since he entered our system as a 16-year-old and he’s certainly heading in the right direction.

“There’s no limit to what he can do and he’s a huge part of our squad and what we want to achieve.” 

Catchpole Contenders: 

B J Hartmann – Manly 

Hunter Ward – Manly 

Kaliova Nacina – West Harbour 

Otto-Louis Wendt – West Harbour