Vodafone Warriors back rower Sebastine Ikahihifo has today had his contract extended to the end of the 2015 NRL season.
Vodafone Warriors general manager football Dean Bell confirmed the club had taken up an option ensuring Ikahihifo’s NRL career runs into a fourth campaign.
The extension follows Ikahihifo’s impressive form in what has been his busiest NRL campaign so far.
On Sunday he’ll make his 11th consecutive appearance of the year to almost double his tally in his first two NRL campaigns in 2012 and 2013.
“Seb has been one of our most improved players this season and he’s clearly relishing the chance to play at NRL level consistently,” said Bell.
“He’s a great example of the benefits of the pathways we can provide to our best local players, coming through our development programme, the NYC and the New South Wales Cup to earn his fulltime NRL contract.”
Ikahihifo will start at loose forward against Penrith at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday (4.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: DEWALT).
“I’m really excited and thankful knowing I have another year with the Vodafone Warriors,” he said.
“I’ve enjoyed my time with the boys ever since I started out in the development squad.
“This year I’ve been learning so much from the senior players and from Cappy (Andrew McFadden) and the coaches. I’m just doing my best to do the job I’m asked to do to help the team.”
McFadden said the Vodafone Warriors were benefiting significantly from the work rate and attitude Ikahihifo provides.
“Since coming back into the side for the first time this season Seb hasn’t really looked back,” he said.
“He’s made huge progress and has become an invaluable player with his ability to handle whatever role we give him.”
The 23-year-old Mangere East Hawks junior made 43 appearances for the club’s NYC side in 2009, 2010 and 2011, playing a key role in each of the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ premiership wins in 2010 and 2011. He was also selected for the Junior Kiwis both years.
Ikahihifo became Vodafone Warrior No 176 when he made his NRL debut against Manly in Perth in July, 2012 (and was voted the players’ player of the day).
After 12 appearances in 2012 and 2013, his first outing this year was against the Sharks when he came into the squad for the suspended Sione Lousi. He has been ever-present since averaging 41 minutes a game, around 65 metres gained and 22 tackles.
Ikahihifo’s brilliant inside pass to Ngani Laumape opened up Brisbane’s defence for Chad Townsend to score the Vodafone Warriors’ match-winning try at Mount Smart Stadium last Saturday night.
He started the 2014 season by being named in the Vodafone Warriors’ squad for the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines at Eden Park in February.
Born: January 27, 1991
Birthplace: Auckland, NZ
Position: Loose Forward/Second Row
Junior Club: Mangere East Hawks
NRL Debut: Vodafone Warriors v Manly, Pattersons Stadium, Perth, July 27, 2012 (Round 21)
NRL Career: 22 appearances, 2012-2014
NRL Points: 0 points
Club Number: 176
Junior Kiwis 2010-2011
Vodafone Warriors, NRL Auckland Nines, 2014