Vila Halafihi jumps at chance to extend stay at Hunslet

Vila Halafihi had no hesitation in re-signing for another year at Hunslet.

Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 12:11 pm
Vila Halafihi collects last season's coach's award from Gary Thornton. PIC: Paul Johnson

The 25-year-old utility man can operate effectively at hooker, loose-forward, half-back or in the second-row and was the Betfred League 1 outfit’s Player of the Year and Coach’s Player of the Year last season.

He said: “I had a good year personally and a reason for that was that head coach Gary Thornton [GT] gave me plenty of game-time, which I hadn’t really enjoyed at my previous clubs. That helped me find myself as a player, and it’s one of the factors that persuaded me to stay.

“The fact that GT and his coaching staff showed such faith in me was another, although I appreciate that I’ll have to show good form to earn a place in the side next year; we’ve signed a number of good young players and selection isn’t guaranteed for anybody.”

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Halafihi, while preferring the hooking role, is happy to play anywhere for the cause but he enjoys sharing the dummy-half role with the experienced Jack Lee, who generally takes on the role in the opening exchanges.

“Jack is a smart guy,” he said, “and offers a lot in the early stages. I like to run a bit more, so we complement each other very well.

“We get plenty of great advice, too, from the sidelines, not only from GT but from his fellow coaches. Mark Cass who, as a former hooker himself at Batley, gives me loads of tips (and some terrible jokes, to be honest!) and Gary Barnett also has a massive input.

“Our coaches have bags of experience and know what it’s all about. Under their guidance we’ll be aiming to push for promotion after not really fulfilling our potential last year.

“It was good to get the personal awards last year but I’d have swapped them for gaining promotion, and that’s got to be the target in 2020.”

Coach Thornton added: “The fact that Vila won the Players’ and Coaches’ awards speaks volumes on how highly rated and respected he is by his fellow players and his coaches.

“He was superb at hooker and equally good when he had to move to loose-forward to cover injuries. He really enjoyed his full first season with us and getting regular game time has helped develop him into an established and respected first-team player.”