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17 hours ago
When Hayden Karena left the Wai-Coa-Bay Stallions in May for the Central Queensland Comets, they were unbeaten in New Zealand rugby league's national competition.
Since, the Stallions have gone on a seven-game slide and dropped to ninth. And it has been a similar story for Karena with his new club in the Queensland Cup.
The transition has not been without difficulty for the talented 22-year-old halfback.
"The team's not doing as well as hoped. The team's a bit different than Wai-Coa-Bay. It's a different feeling ... it's a cultural thing," Karena said, from the heat of Rockhampton, Queensland, this week.
Since his arrival, the Comets have gone 2-6 and dropped from Cup playoff contention with four games remaining in the season. Karena has started in seven games, scoring in his first game with the club, and kicking seven goals as a back-up kicker.
Karena said the team's problems came from new players continually joining the squad. Despite the team record, he was pleased with his game and his progress in the new league.
"The competition is really good. It's a lot faster than at home, not as physical, so I have had to work on my fitness.
"I'm learning a lot of new stuff and I've had to do it in a short time. My leadership's gone a bit better. I'm starting to read the play a bit better and general kicking has improved a lot."
Karena has heard no word on his prospects of being signed by the Cowboys or returning to the Comets next season, but has been visited twice by the Cowboys CEO during the first two months.
"I don't think they want to say anything during the season. They probably want to wait until the Queensland Cup finishes, or we finish."
Karena plans to visit friends and family in Waikato after the Queensland Cup finishes in late-August and has not ruled out playing in the New Zealand sevens season.