Hooker Nathan Friend has earned another one-year contract with the Vodafone Warriors to extend his NRL career to a 14th season.
The 33-year-old specialist dummy half, who made his NRL debut with Brisbane in 2002, has earned a new deal after a series of impressive efforts in the first nine rounds of the 2014 campaign.
Again leading the Vodafone Warriors’ tackling stats this season, Friend has made an average of almost 46 tackles a game in his 47 appearances for the club.
“I was really happy when Cappy (head coach Andrew McFadden) called me in this morning (Thursday) to tell me,” he said.
“I had a chat with Dean (general manager football Dean Bell) and it was all done and dusted.
“The family’s very settled so it’s great to know I’ll be having a fourth year here.
“I’m feeling the best I have for the last couple of years. As long as the team is performing well around me I’m happy to keep chugging along.”
While confirming his new deal, Friend also applauded the long-term contract offered to McFadden as head coach.
“I think it’s the best thing the club has done appointing him and giving him a three-year deal,” he said.
“He has shown in little time what he can do for the club as a whole.
“The players really work for him. I think that’s due to the way he goes about things. He’s very structured and lets the players know what’s expected of them. He’s very open and honest.”
Newly-appointed Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden said Friend’s re-signing was a key move.
“Nathan has been outstanding for us again this season,” he said.
“He provides so much with his all-round professionalism; he’s an exceptional trainer and someone who demands the highest standards from all those around him.
“With his experience he’s also a real asset for the younger players, especially for a hooker like Siliva (Havili) as he looks to develop into a regular first-grade player.”
For Vodafone Warriors general manager football Dean Bell, Friend’s signing brings to 14 the number of players who have been re-signed recently. It follows the new two-year contract for hooker Siliva Havili announced last weekend while captain Simon Mannering, Jacob Lillyman and Sione Lousi are among the others re-signed for terms ranging from one year to four years.
Last week the club also confirmed Melbourne star Ryan Hoffman, one of Friend’s team-mates at the Storm from 2003-2006, had signed on a three-year contract.
“It’s invaluable for us having Nathan here for another season,” said Bell.
“Apart from what he provides on the field, his experience and example around the club is hugely beneficial.”
Friend makes his 183rd career appearance when the Vodafone Warriors take on competition-leading Canterbury-Bankstown at Waikato Stadium on Sunday (4.00pm kick-off).
Born: February 28, 1981
Birthplace: Toowoomba, Queensland
Junior Club: Wests Juniors (Toowoomba)
Previous Clubs: Gold Coast Titans 2007-2011, Melbourne Storm 2003-2006, Brisbane Broncos 2002, Toowoomba Clydesdales (Queensland)
NRL Debut: Brisbane v Wests Tigers, Campbelltown Sports Ground, May 31, 2002 (Round 12)
Club Debut: Vodafone Warriors v Manly, Eden Park, March 04, 2012 (Round 1)
Club Number: 171
NRL Career: 182 appearances 2002-2014 - Brisbane Broncos: 1 appearance 2002; Melbourne Storm: 34 appearances 2003-2006; Gold Coast Titans: 100 appearances 2007-2011; Vodafone Warriors: 47 appearances 2012-2014
NRL Points: 36 points (9 tries)