Auckland, New Zealand, April 5, 2008 – Second rower Sonny Fai, one of the NRL’s most highly-rated emerging young players, today signed a new deal to stay with the Vodafone Warriors until the end of the 2010 season.
Fai, who turned 20 on March 20, was off contract at the end of this season and had attracted wide interest from rival NRL clubs.
Vodafone Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said the club was delighted it had been able to keep Fai at Mt Smart Stadium for another two seasons.
“It’s a huge challenge retaining our best young players,” said Scurrah.
“There’s more interest in them than ever from other NRL clubs. Through the NYC and the Auckland Vulcans our players are gaining greater exposure.
“But we are committed to becoming a development club and Sonny is an example of the success of our Allied Work Force development programme.
“We want young players in New Zealand to see the Vodafone Warriors as their first choice when looking for a pathway to an NRL career. Recruiting a young player of Sonny’s ability and developing him into an NRL player is hugely satisfying for the club and we believe it’s also a great sign for the game in this country as a whole.”
Vodafone Warriors coach Ivan Cleary was equally excited that Fai’s immediate future at the club had been sealed.
“It’s been pleasing to see Sonny develop from a promising player into a first-grader,” he said.
“He has only just started at NRL level and has the ability to go a lot further. He has put in a lot of work in trying to become a better player and we believe there’s a lot more he can still offer.”
Fai, a De La Salle College product out of the Mangere East club, said he appreciated the opportunity the Vodafone Warriors had provided him.
“I’ve worked hard on trying to improve my game and Ivan and the coaches have been great in the way they’ve helped me and taught me so much,” he said.
“Having started out as a junior here it was a huge thrill to make my NRL debut against the Eels. I was always keen to stay here with the boys. I just want to keep working as hard as I can to play a lot more games in the NRL but I know I’ve still got a long way to go.”
Fai, who has played for the Junior Kiwis every year since 2004, began the season in the new National Youth Competition, scoring two tries in the Vodafone Junior Warriors’ opening round loss to Melbourne.
The following week he became the club’s 138th NRL player, making his debut off the interchange bench against Parramatta. He was also on the bench against Manly when he played the last 52 minutes of the match unchanged.
He has been elevated to the starting line-up for this Sunday’s clash against Newcastle at Mt Smart Stadium. Significantly he’ll team up in the second row with Kiwi Simon Mannering, another product of the club’s development system. Still only 21, Mannering has already played 11 tests in 2006-07 and 53 NRL games.
Fai was named the Vodafone Warriors’ Allied Work Force Under-20 2007 Player of the Year. He appeared in 21 of the Vodafone Auckland Lions’ 22 matches in the New South Wales Cup, scoring 14 tries.
Born: March 20, 1988
Birthplace: Auckland, NZ
Position: Second row
Junior Club: Mangere East Hawks (Auckland)
Other Teams: Counties Manukau Jetz (Bartercard Cup), Papatoetoe Panthers (Auckland)
NRL Debut: v Parramatta, Mt Smart Stadium, March 23, 2008 (Round 2)
Club Number: 138
NRL Career: 2 appearances (2008)
NRL Points: 0
Representative: New Zealand A 2006
Junior Kiwis 2004-07
New Zealand Residents 2005-06
New Zealand Under-18s 2004
New Zealand Under-16s 2003