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From their debut to game No.100: Pitama and Watts hit milestone

Sheldon Pitama and Nathan Watts made their Hostplus Cup debuts together back in 2017.

They ran out in the No.8 (Watts) and No.9 (Pitama) jerseys, both for the Redcliffe Dolphins.

So it’s a fitting occasion that on Saturday, the duo will run out once again in their No.8 and No.9 jerseys, still with Redcliffe, to celebrate a significant milestone together – 100 Cup games.

Pitama (main image) said they’ve been through a lot together and it shows still today. 

“Nathan’s Dolphin #722 and I’m #723, so we’ve followed the same pathway since we started together in 2017,” he said.

“We’ve gone through a lot of injuries together as well. There’s been times I’ve been injured and he’s been injured and we’ve gone through rehab together or we’ve been in and out at similar times.

“We’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs together. We’ll be running out as eight and nine this weekend, exactly the same as we ran out in game one at home as well.”

Nathan Watts. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL
Nathan Watts. Photo: Rikki-Lee Arnold/QRL

Redcliffe coach Ben Te’o knows both stalwarts are valuable members of his squad. Both are one-club men and both help bring the team together in their own ways.

“Nathan’s a special player to our club,” Te’o said.

“He’s a local junior, he’s come through the system, won premierships with the under 18s and Colts, won a Cup competition... he’s an honest, hard-working front rower.

“He doesn’t say too much but leads with his actions. He’s a popular member of the squad.

“Shelly’s also a very popular member of the side.

“He’s the one who brings the group together – that’s him and his role. He’s been fantastic for us over a number of years.

“Wherever the team needs him to play, whatever he needs to do, he’ll do it and do it without complaining. He’s the ultimate team player.”

Pitama, who started with the Dolphins at age 20, said he remembers everything about his debut match alongside Watts.

It was against the Burleigh Bears in Round 1 of the 2017 season and for the now 28-year-old, it was a shock to the system.

“I remember everything about it,” he said.

“It was my debut, I started at hooker and it was scorching hot, coming up against the premiers of the year before, which was Burleigh.

“In the pre-season, I was signed to provide back up for Shane Pumipi and he got injured a few weeks before that.

“(Coach Adam Mogg) Moggy asked me to play 80 in the middle for my first Cup game. From the 10th minute, I was just exhausted. But I remember we won as well.”

For Pitama, he said the highlights of his time in Cup would be the “lifetime friendships” he has made and the influences around him, including some of the long-serving staff at Redcliffe.

On the field, his most special season was 2022 – a consistent year after a long run of injuries and selection woes.

“My highlight season was 2022 with (then coach) Scott Murray,” Pitama said.

“It was the first year I played a season injury-free and I got to captain the club for the first time and we made the grand final.

“Even though we didn’t win, it was a really enjoyable year and since then I’ve been on the same path of being able to play more consistent footy.

“I would say injuries and selection have been my biggest challenge. It’s a competition where the NRL players drop back every single week so you’re in competition not just with the squad of 30 at the club but also five or six NRL players that drop back every week.

“It’s a competitive competition that you have to commit to.”

For this Saturday’s milestone match against the Central Queensland Capras on home turf, Pitama’s family in New Zealand will fly over to watch him in action and he is hopeful of a celebratory beer in the Leagues Club afterwards.

And a win, of course.

The versatile hooker and backrower has a lot of belief in what the Dolphins can achieve this year.

And he hopes it can lead him to his one last career goal.

“A premiership,” Pitama said of what’s left in his Cup career.

“We’ve got a really good side this year and the potential to win it. We’ve had a really good pre-season and bonded really well within the core 30.

“For us, it just comes back to performance now. The bonds are there for us so we need to rack a few good performances together but I’m excited about this year.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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