Series of signings shores up club's future
Tuesday 17 July 2012 11:30 AM
Rookie sensation Konrad Hurrell’s new deal was the latest in a series of contract announcements which have firmed up the Vodafone Warriors’ NRL roster well into the future.
The 20-year-old’s signing to the end of the 2015 NRL season was one of four high-profile contract announcements within two weeks.
Earlier boom prop Ben Matulino (23) and accomplished centre-back rower Ben Henry (20) were also signed until 2015 while seasoned former Queensland Origin prop Jacob Lillyman has a new deal until 2014.
And today Vodafone Warriors recruitment and development manager Dean Bell revealed tough-tackling forward Steve Rapira had also been secured until the end of the 2013 campaign.
“Several years ago we said we were committed to becoming a development club and since then we’ve seen the benefits of our programme many times over,” he said.
“We’ve made huge strides with our policy and now we’re reaping the rewards as some of these players develop into senior first-graders, especially someone like Ben (Matulino) who was playing in the NYC in 2008 and 2009 but has now made more than 100 first-grade appearances and is seen as one of the best front rowers in the game today.
“We will always be on the lookout for quality players from overseas but our priority is to develop our own home-grown first-grade footballers.
“We’re also committed to developing our own players who have the potential to become marquee players like Shaun Johnson, Kevin Locke, Konrad Hurrell and Ben Matulino.”
With Matulino and Lillyman secured until 2015 and 2014, Bell pointed out the Vodafone Warriors had now locked in their impressive stable of leading front rowers for some time.
Late last year Sam Rapira signed on through to 2014 and Russell Packer, who’s approaching 100 NRL games, is committed at Mount Smart Stadium until 2014. Apart from the experienced quartet Sione Lousi (22) has established himself as a regular in 2012, appearing in every match so far this season.
Soon after Sam Rapira was re-signed in November last year, the Vodafone Warriors confirmed the first of their two major new signings, announcing 2003-2004 Vodafone Warriors halfback and Kiwi international Thomas Leuluai would finish at Wigan to return to the club on a three-year contract to the end of 2015 to partner Johnson (signed until 2015) in the halves.
Queensland and Melbourne centre Dane Nielsen’s three-year contract was revealed in April while before the season had even started captain Simon Mannering had his contract extended to the end of the 2015 season, which will make him an 11-season Vodafone Warrior.
Winger Bill Tupou has been re-signed since the season started. Now close to 50 NRL games, his deal takes him through to the end of 2014.
While the Vodafone Warriors have had success bringing players through their system from local rugby league, Bell said rugby union in New Zealand was a fertile recruitment option as evidenced by Hurrell’s rapid development into a quality NRL player.
The former Auckland Grammar School First XV star had a dazzling introduction to rugby league from schoolboy rugby union last season when he helped the Vodafone Junior Warriors to a second straight NYC premiership. Scoring two tries in the grand final, he had a total tally of 22 in 21 games.
“There’s no doubt there will be more young rugby union players in New Zealand with the potential to do what Konrad has done with the Vodafone Warriors,” he said.
“As a club we’ve shown rugby union players that there’s so much they can achieve by coming to us, not just on the field but through the total package we provide.
“We’ve had success in identifying a number of union players at school level and have seen them take to rugby league so well. There’ll be more to come.”
Bell said it was likely there would be further NRL recruitment announcements in the near future.
As well as the success on the recruitment front, Vodafone Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said he was delighted with the growing interest being shown in the club in Australia.
“We’ve just seen some phenomenal support for the team in the back-to-back games we’ve had against Gold Coast and Brisbane,” he said.
“It almost seemed like they were home games with the number of Kiwis in the crowd and the noise they were making.
“We have a range of membership initiatives we’re working on to develop our base even further in Australia.”
Scurrah said the Vodafone Warriors were committed to making their sporting brand one of the biggest in the game.