Fatafehi Hurrell is feeling the love back in Nuku'alofa, but her boy's opponents in the NRL certainly aren't.
The first hat-trick of Konrad Hurrell's impressive debut season in first grade propelled the New Zealand Warriors to a 32-14 victory over a Gold Coast Titans side missing four key members on Saturday. Hurrell twice benefited from five-eighth James Maloney's intuition and after a dozen appearances he has 12 tries, including 11 in his last seven.
That strike rate rivals Hurrell's scoring record in last year's under-20s competition, his introduction to the code after being brought to Auckland on a rugby scholarship by Auckland Grammar School three years ago.
The 20-year-old's post-try celebration never deviates. He blows a kiss for his mother back home, so she's been getting plenty of long-distance affection in recent weeks. "It's something I do for her, all the family's back in Tonga," said Hurrell after his media scrum was ambushed by cheeky team-mates. As they called out questions for "Koncrete" and "Big Strong K", it was the only time the 101kg centre appeared nervous all night. While Hurrell deflected the kudos to his team-mates, coach Brian McClennan disagreed as he reflected on a win that squeezed the Warriors inside the top eight on points differential, with eight rounds remaining.
"He's disciplined, he applies himself in training, he's got good respect for the [club's] leadership," the coach said.
"He's a good young fella, he's developing nicely. It's good for our game when young talent like that comes through." McClennan's only concern was that Hurrell remain fit for the remainder of the campaign. He carried a hamstring strain into Saturday's game and then aggravated an ankle injury he sustained in last October's under-20s grand final.
Hurrell was substituted only as a precaution against the Titans and is expected to be available for Friday night's clash with the third-placed Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
The Warriors' other barnstorming back, Manu Vatuvei, should also have recovered from a knee injury so he will replace Omar Slaimankhel who was exposed defensively before going perilously close to marking his third first-grade appearance with a maiden try. A Maloney break got Hurrell and the Warriors on the board in the second minute but the Titans bounced back to lead 14-4 with three rapid-fire tries.
However, Shaun Johnson and Hurrell ensured the Warriors were up at the turn; Hurrell made a beeline for the corner soon after the restart, and Ben Matulino and Kevin Locke then completed the rout at Skilled Park. McClennan was impressed the Warriors' defence tightened up after the Titans scoring spree.
That pressure contributed to the hosts' woeful 40 per cent completion rate after halftime.
"We were behind by 10 and it was good to see everyone remain calm, come back and be solid in that second half," he said.
"They're really good experiences for our young players.
"You can talk about it but you can't beat it actually happening." Maloney, one of the team's wise old heads, was also happy there were no signs of panic as the Titans attempted to give David Mead a fitting send-off before he heads to Papua New Guinea for his father's funeral.
"We dug deep and played a bit more field position. It was pleasing to get ourselves out of that situation," the Roosters-bound playmaker said, before heaping more praise on Hurrell.
"He's unreal, he's doing a really good job for us. It's nice to have him outside me – you know you can give him the ball, he'll beat five blokes and dive over." Fairfax NZ
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