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More game time, less drama the plan for Utoikamanu

Rising Eels star Stefano Utoikamanu says he was scared a possible biosecurity breach after his round nine debut may have sidelined him indefinitely.

However, having now got through his first two NRL appearances and an early brush with controversy, the junior representative star is now hoping to contribute to his team in this weekend's match against his future club Wests Tigers.

After getting onto the field to take the final carry of the game in a 10-4 win over Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium, Utoikamanu was keen to share the moment with his family in the stands.

Oblivious to any potential COVID breach, the 20-year-old continued embracing family members until Parramatta's football manager Craig Sultana moved in to take him away.

The youngster was then put into isolation until his close contacts had been cleared of COVID-19.

"I wasn't thinking," Utoikamanu admitted.

"Everything just kind of went out of my head. I just ran up to my family, I was happy to see them. It was not the best decision I have made.

"Everyone just celebrated my first game and got me all those necklaces and stuff to show how much they love me."

Get Caught Up: Round 10

As soon as Sultana intervened, Utoikamanu quickly realised his error.

"Lucky Sults helped me out lot. He pretty much got all my work done for me," Utoikamanu said.

"I thought maybe I might be out for two weeks, or I didn't even know how long. It was scary."

Luckily for the former under-16s, under-18s and under-20s NSW sensation, the issue was wrapped up quickly, freeing him to take on Manly in round 10.

He spent slightly longer on the field in his second game, accruing 11 tackles and 37 run metres in a 10-minute stint.

"I didn't know how long I was going to get but I was just happy to get out there," he said.

"I was excited, I couldn't wait to get on. It was good to get out there and get a feel for how the game is in the top grade.

"Last week I understood why I didn't get long because it was a tight game. This week [coach Brad Arthur] just told me to get out there and do two things: carry the ball hard and tackle hard. I think I did that.

"The 10 minutes I was out there went really fast. I felt like I got on and come off, I was punching away."

Utoikamanu is hoping for more time in round 11.

"It sets me up for next week. Hopefully I can do a better job next week and improve on my game," he said.

Try celebrations galore

I've just got to go out there and do my job for the boys and make sure I am reliable.

"It was a tough decision [to leave Parramatta] but I think it was best for me and my family. It was probably the hardest decision I've had to make in my life."

He said there were no hard feelings between himself and Arthur, who he thanked for debuting him this year despite the fact he would not be there next year.

"I'm grateful for that. I stayed here and put my head down and wanted to work hard to try and debut this year," he said.

"I'm grateful that Brad gave me the opportunity this year.

"It sets me up for next year. Hopefully I get a bit more game time next week and do a good job for us and try to stay in the team."

Acknowledgement of Country

Parramatta Eels respect and honour 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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