Vastly-experienced playmaker Thomas Leuluai has extended his Vodafone Warriors contract to the end of the 2017 NRL season.
While he wasn’t off contract until the end of next season his manager Peter Brown has worked with the Vodafone Warriors to secure a two-year extension which will stretch his second stint with the Vodafone Warriors to five seasons.
Boasting a total of 279 appearances in the NRL and the English Super League, Leuluai teams up with Chad Townsend in the halves for the Vodafone Warriors’ 22nd-round regular season encounter with the Cronulla Sharks at Mount Smart Stadium today (4.00pm kick-off; match day sponsor: Bendon Man).
Leuluai said it was important to settle his long-term future with the Vodafone Warriors.
“While I’ve had a frustrating season personally I couldn’t be happier being back home,” he said.
“I always wanted to come back to not only play in the NRL but to play for my original club.
“I think we’re in great shape. It’s impressive how much the club has grown since I first started here.
“We’ve got a really good squad, fantastic talent coming through and outstanding facilities. We don’t want for anything.
“As players we love the job Cappy (Andrew McFadden) and the coaching staff are doing.”
Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden said Leuluai’s all-round value couldn’t be overstated.
“Everything he does is of the highest quality,” he said.
“While he has missed a fair bit of football lately he has still contributed massively as one of our captains and through his professionalism and competiveness.
“Having Tommy on board to the end of 2017 is critical to our progress.”
Sunday’s clash against the Sharks will be Leuluai’s fourth since returning from a three-month lay-off following more issues with the groin complaint which ruined his 2013 Rugby League World Cup campaign with the Kiwis.
He played every minute of the Vodafone Warriors’ 24 games last year – 1920 in total – in what was an impressive return to NRL football after eight seasons in the English Super League, the last six with the Wigan Warriors.
The son of 1979-1986 Kiwi legend James Leuluai, he has played 31 Tests for the Kiwis, two more than his father did. Their combined total of 60 Tests is clearly the world record for most internationals by a father and son combination.
This season Leuluai was joined at the Vodafone Warriors by his long-time Wigan team-mate Sam Tomkins and in 2015 he and Tomkins will be reunited with another former club-mate in Kangaroos, New South Wales and Melbourne second rower Ryan Hoffman; Hoffman spent the 2011 season with Tomkins and Leuluai at Wigan before returning to the Storm in 2012.
At the time of his NRL debut in 2003, Leuluai was the youngest-ever player to appear in a first-grade match for the Vodafone Warriors while he also had the distinction of making his NRL and Test debuts in that same season.
He was in the Kiwi teams that claimed the 2008 Rugby League World Cup and the 2010 Four Nations title.
Born: June 22, 1985
Birthplace: Auckland, NZ
Junior Clubs: Papatoetoe Panthers, Otahuhu Leopards (Auckland)
Other Clubs: Vodafone Warriors (2003-2004), London Broncos (2005), Harlequins (2005-2006), Wigan Warriors (2007-2012)
Kiwi Number: 704
Tests: 31 (2003-2013)
Test Debut: v Australia, North Harbour Stadium, Auckland, 2003
Test Points: 12 (3 tries)
NRL Debut: Vodafone Warriors v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, May 2, 2003 (Round 8)
Club Number: 105
NRL Games: 52 (2003-2004 & 2013-2014)
NRL Points: 32 (8 tries)
Super League Games: 227 games (2005-2012):
London Broncos/Harlequins: 38 games (2005-2006)
Wigan Warriors: 189 games (2007-2012)
Super League Points: 320 (80 tries):
London Broncos/Harlequins: 80 points (20 tries)
Wigan Warriors: 240 points (60 tries)
Other Honours: Exiles 2011-2012, Harry Sunderland Trophy 2010