Hiku wins top NYC accolade
Tuesday 18 September 2012 8:45 PM
Utility back Peta Hiku collected the premier accolade when he was named Vodafone NYC Player of the Year – and winner of the Sonny Fai Memorial Medal – at the Vodafone Warriors’ annual NYC awards dinner at Mount Smart Stadium tonight.
The 20-year-old Gisborne-born Manurewa Marlins junior was one of the more unexpected success stories of the season, given his chance as a replacement for the injured first-choice fullback Omar Slaimankhel.
The former James Cook High School student seized the opening, making a memorable try-scoring debut in the fourth-round clash against Gold Coast at Mount Smart Stadium on March 24 and going on to become a permanent fixture.
He mixed his initial appearances between fullback and the wing and, when Carlos Tuimavave was promoted to the NRL side, he was then given the task of filling the standoff’s role as well. Wherever he played, Hiku was consistently one of the best on the park finishing the season with six tries in 23 games and a range of statistics which underlined his value to the side.
Fearless at the back, he made 312 runs (an average of 13.6 a game), gained 2900 metres (126 a game) and made 88 tackle breaks. Only front rower Ligi Sao topped his numbers for runs and metres gained over the season.
While he faced stern opposition from Sao, workaholic back rower David Bhana, hooker Siliva Havili and big forward Toka Likiliki (also used as one of the game’s biggest wingers), Hiku was singled out by his peers and the coaching staff as the side’s outstanding performer.
Bhana, who distinguished himself by being a nominee for all three awards, capped his rookie year by being named the TNT NYC Young Player of the Year. Also studying for a science degree at the University of Auckland, the ex-Birkenhead College student was the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ defensive lynchpin finishing the season with 957 tackles. His total is easily a record in a season for a Vodafone Junior Warrior.
Also nominated for the TNT NYC Young Player of the Year award were centre-winger Ngataua Hukatia and halfback Mason Lino. While Bhana is eligible for another season in the competition, Lino, who turned 18 in February, and Hukatai, 18 in July, still have two more seasons in the NYC.
Former Avondale College pupil Lino, a Marist Saints junior, made his debut in the second round in March and went on to make 23 appearances, totalling 144 points.
Hukatai was signed from rugby union last year, having played for the King’s College First XV and New Zealand Secondary Schools. He made his debut in the opening round against Manly at Eden Park in March, going to play in 24 of the 26 matches scoring 11 tries.
Likiliki was singled out as the DEWALT Clubman of the Year ahead of Bhana, Nathaniel Peteru and James Taylor.
Also acknowledged tonight were the departing players. Among them were Hiku, who has signed for Manly, and Likiliki, set to join his older brother and former Vodafone Warrior Siuatonga Likiliki at the Newcastle Knights. Others leaving are Slaimankhel (rugby union in Japan) and Sao (Manly) as well as Peteru, Siulongoua Fotofili, Jordan Meads and Donald Tony.
Of the others no longer eligible for the under-20 competition next year, captain John Palavi, Carlos Tuimavave and Sio Siua Taukeiaho are already in the fulltime NRL squad.