Kiwi back rower Bodene Thompson is joining the Vodafone Warriors on a three-year contract for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 NRL seasons.
While revealing Thompson’s signing, Vodafone Warriors general manager Dean Bell also confirmed second rower Jayson Bukuya had been granted a release on compassionate grounds to return to Sydney.
The Tauranga-born Thompson boasts a total of 85 NRL appearances for the Gold Coast Titans and Wests Tigers and is now in camp with the Kiwis for their 2014 Four Nations campaign. He was 18th man for their encounter with Toa Samoa in Whangarei last night.
Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden is thrilled about securing Thompson.
“Bodene’s a quality addition to our squad, a player with a great attitude and work ethic who has impressed everyone who has worked with him,” he said.
“From the moment I first saw him play at NRL level I’ve been impressed with the way he goes about his work.
“He’s an 80-minute back rower who’s really going to add plenty to our squad and he’ll also ensure there’s huge competition for spots. I’m really excited we’ve secured him.”
After moving to the Gold Coast with his family when he was a teenager, Thompson said the opportunity to come home to New Zealand and to link up with the Vodafone Warriors was another career highlight.
“I’ve had an amazing last few weeks being called into the Kiwis and now signing with the Vodafone Warriors,” he said.
“I’m doing all I can to support the team in the Four Nations right now but I’m also looking forward to linking up with the boys at Mount Smart Stadium. I’m around plenty of them in camp with the Kiwis right now so I’m already getting to know them well.
“While I enjoyed my time with Wests Tigers and have plenty to thank them for, coming home to New Zealand is something I always wanted to do.”
A product of the highly-regarded Keebra Park State High School rugby league programme, Thompson played for the Titans in the NYC’s foundation season in 2008 before making the first of 49 NRL appearances for the club in 2009. The following year he represented New Zealand Maori against England at Mount Smart Stadium and was with the Maori squad again when he was called into the Kiwis’ Four Nations squad two weeks ago to replace Sydney Roosters prop Sam Moa.
In 21 appearances for the Tigers this year Thompson scored six tries and averaged 86 metres and 30 tackles a game.
While he comes into the 2015 squad Bell and McFadden are disappointed to lose Bukuya.
“He’s going back to Sydney for personal reasons and we respect that. We certainly wish him all the best,” said Bell.
McFadden added: “The past season was a challenging one for Jayson but all we want is the best for him and for his family. While his form suffered during the season we appreciate the effort he put in.”
The Vodafone Warriors will have a reduced squad when they begin their offseason pre-Christmas training block tomorrow. New signing Matt Allwood will be among the group but most of the club’s representative players won’t start training until the New Year.
As well as Thompson the others on representative duty are Kiwis Simon Mannering, Manu Vatuvei, Shaun Johnson, Thomas Leuluai, Suaia Matagi and Siliva Havili; Sam Tomkins (England); Ryan Hoffman (Australia); and Dominique Peyroux (Toa Samoa).
Born: August 1, 1988
Birthplace: Tauranga, NZ
Position: Second Row
Junior Club: Tauranga City Sharks
Previous Clubs: Gold Coast Titans (2009-2012), Wests Tigers (2013-2014)
NRL Debut: Gold Coast v Newcastle, EvergyAustralia Stadium, May 10, 2009 (Round 9)
NRL Career: 85 appearances 2009-2014
NRL Points: 64 points (16 tries)
Representative: Kiwis 2014 (Four Nations), New Zealand Maori 2010