North Wales Crusaders v Hunslet - Vila Halafihi determined to exorcise past disappointment as Parksiders target promotion from League One
The desire to put a ghost to rest is motivating Hunslet’s Vila Halafihi this year.
Halafihi joined Hunslet at the end of the 2018 season, after helping Bradford Bulls win promotion from Betfred League One into the Championship.
And the Leeds Rhinos’ academy product admitted he is “haunted” by a disappointing end to his first campaign there, when the Parksiders crashed out of the play-offs in their opening tie.
Hunslet bounced back to lead League One at the time the 2020 season was halted because of coronavirus and, despite their round one loss to Workington Town last weekend, the 27-year-old reckons they can push for promotion this time and bury that memory from 2019.
“My first year at Hunslet, we had such a good squad and we fell at the last hurdle against Workington in the play-offs,” Halafihi recalled.
“That haunts me, it was a bit gutting and I want to go further this year.
“We have got a great squad again and I am really confident we can go further than my first year at Hunslet.”
Halafihi, who also had a season with Australian giants Penrith Panthers’ under-20s early in his career, has been on the books at bigger clubs, but insisted he is “loving it” at Hunslet under team boss Gary Thornton.
“The fact Gary [Thornton] is the coach at Hunslet is a big pull to players,” he said.
“They know he is a good manager, he has been around a while and managed at a few clubs in both Championship and League One.
“He understands the leagues well, he understands the players well and I am really enjoying it.”
He added: “This is my third year at Hunslet now and I’ve picked up a bit of a hooker/utility role, which I absolutely love.
“I spend some time playing at 13 and nine and I enjoy them both a lot.
“Gary has given me that licence to, if needed, be able to play big minutes and that’s what I came to Hunslet for.”
After last Sunday’s 28-16 setback, Hunslet have an opportunity to get their season on track this afternoon against North Wales Crusaders at their new home of Eirias Park - now known as Stadium Zip World - in Colwyn Bay (2.30pm)
“It is amassive game, the first four games all are,” Halafihi said of today’s fixture.
“It’s a really big start for us, we had a tough result last weekend - which we didn’t expect - and it makes the second game of the season more important and more exciting for us.”
Crusaders started with a big win at London Skolars and Halafihi warned: “League One is very competitive, it has got a lot of clubs who are all at the same level.
“There’s a lot of good players who’ve dropped down to League One, either on loan or who’ve been invested in by the clubs and that makes it more exciting to play in.
“We played North Wales in a friendly a couple of weeks ago and they were good, so it’s going to be interesting.”
Thornton has brought in winger Wayne Reittie, centre George Senior and forward Anthony Bowman on loan from Batley Bulldogs to add depth to his squad.
“They are great additions,” Halafihi said. “Wayne Reittie is a big one, I played against him a couple of times when I was at Bradford and he’ll be a big boost for us.
“It’s good we’ve got these players on loan, because they will want to play well for themselves and for the team.”
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