Wests Tigers have announced the re-signing of prop forward Ava Seumanufagai until the end of the 2015 season and young forward Sitaleki Akauola for another two seasons.
After making his NRL debut in round 3 last year, Seumanufagai has since played 34 NRL games and has become a key member of the Wests Tigers forward pack.
The 23-year-old said the new deal was a boost leading into the back end of the year as the club pushes for a place in the finals series.
“I’m really excited to stay with the Wests Tigers,” Seumanufagai said. “I’m happy that my contract is sorted for next year and grateful for the opportunity.”
“I was lucky enough to get my first shot at NRL last year, and whilst it was tough in terms of results, I felt that I took a lot out of it and it made me stronger for this season.
“It’s really exciting to be part of the younger group of players at the Club and I think we can achieve something special in the next few years.
“For now though, it’s all about a strong finish to the year and we are focused on making a run to the finals.”
Coach Mick Potter expressed his delight in securing the hard-working prop for another season.
“Ava has steadily improved as the year has gone on,” Potter said. “There’s no doubt he has been a real asset for us with his metres after contact, ability to build ruck speed and exceptional defence.”
“Ava has worked really hard on his fitness at every possible opportunity and it’s showing in his football as he starts to get more and more minutes.
“Defensively Ava is rock-solid and it’s a pleasing aspect because he has developed that and worked really hard in the pre-season to get where he is at now.
“The players love it when Ava comes on the field, he gives us that lift and really deserves what he is getting.”
Akauola made his NRL debut in round 5 of 2013 against the Melbourne Storm, his only top grade game that season, before earning another six NRL appearances so far in 2014.
The 22-year-old can cover a range of positions from back-row to the outside backs and will join the Wests Tigers top 25 squad next year.
The Manurewa junior expressed his delight with the new contact that will see him remain at the club until the end of 2016.
“I’m really happy with my new deal,” Akauola said. “It has always been a dream of mine to play in the NRL and it’s great to have that opportunity with the Wests Tigers.”
“It’s really pleasing to stay for another two years and my goal is to cement a position in the NRL team through hard-work and consistent performances.”
Akauola was part of the Wests Tigers 2012 Under 20s premiership-winning side alongside current NRL players such as David Nofoaluma, Sauaso Sue and Joel Luani.
“I have a lot of great memories from 2012,” Akauola said. “There are a lot of players from that side still at the Club and hopefully we can win another premiership together in the future.”
“We are a tight group at the Wests Tigers, my teammates are like brothers to me.”
Potter said he was pleased that the club has secured yet another promising young player on a new deal.
"Sitaleki has made a steady progression over the last couple of years,” Potter said. “I’m happy with where he is at now and I’m looking forward to him pushing forward in the future.”
“He offers great versatility to the squad and is a player with a lot of potential.”