A contract extension signed today will keep outstanding centre Solomone Kata at the Vodafone Warriors until at least the end of the 2019 NRL season.
The 21-year-old Tonga international has missed just one of a possible 38 matches since making his first-grade debut against Newcastle in the opening round of the 2015 season.
The specialist left edge centre, who has 22 tries in his 37 games, was the team’s top try-scorer with 12 last year and he again leads this year with 10 in 13 appearances.
In confirming Kata’s contract, Vodafone Warriors recruitment and development manager Tony Iro also announced deals for five of the club’s other most promising young players.
Giant wing Ken Maumalo (21) and 2016 NRL rookie Jazz Tevaga (20) have signed to the end of the 2018 season and the club’s 2015 Vodafone NYC player of the year Bunty Afoa (19) has been secured to the end of 2019.
Vodafone Junior Warriors utility Erin Clark (18) and back rower Ofahiki Ogden (20), who have both been given ISP experience this season, have deals to the end of 2017 while prop Patrick Sipley (24), older brother of rookie NRL front rower Toafofoa, also has a one-year deal; Sipley was introduced to the ISP side last season and has again been used by coach Stacey Jones this year.
“Sol has made fantastic progress jumping straight from the NYC into the NRL last year,” said Iro.
“He has proved to be not only one of the game’s most damaging centres but also one of the most consistent. The NRL coaching staff are hugely impressed with him.
“We’ve moved to secure him long-term and we’re also delighted with the way Ken, Jazz, Bunty, Erin and Pat are developing. It’s especially pleasing for us seeing Sol, Ken, Jazz, Bunty and Erin come through our NYC side while Pat shows there’s a pathway from local football as well.”
Kata, Maumalo, Tevaga and Afoa were all in the club’s NYC premiership-winning side in 2014.
Kata’s rapid rise from rookie to first-choice NRL centre follows an impressive introduction to rugby league after playing First XV rugby union for Sacred Heart College in Auckland.
After scoring 11 tries in 17 matches in the 2013 NYC season, he was used sparingly in the grade in 2014 as he was developed in the club’s reserve grade side. He returned for the NYC finals, scoring a hat-trick and winning the Jack Gibson Medal in the grand final. He made 34 consecutive NRL appearances following his debut before his run was broken by a one-match suspension last month.
Maumalo played eight NRL games last year after debuting against Parramatta. He came back into the NRL team for the first time this year replacing the injured Manu Vatuvei for last Sunday’s 12-10 win over the Sydney Roosters; he’s in the side again for this week’s encounter with Cronulla.
Tevaga, an ISP regular, made the first of his six NRL appearances this season against Melbourne in round three while Afoa, who has played more than 50 NYC games, made his ISP debut last year, was reintroduced to the side last week and has been named to line up in the grade again this week.
This weekend Clark again starts at loose forward for the NYC side against Cronulla while Sipley is on the bench for the ISP team against North Sydney at Mount Smart Stadium #2 on Saturday.
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