The New Zealand Warriors have confirmed a two-year contract extension for young gun Viliami Vailea, which will keep him at the club until the end of the 2025 season.
Vailea was already on contract with the club until the end of 2023, and the promising 19-year-old has impressed in limited NRL opportunities until now.
The news comes as a rare bright spot for the club, with the Warriors currently facing the prospect of losing a number of Australian-based players for 2023.
Euan Aitken has already opted out, while there is speculation that both Reece Walsh and Matt Lodge will attempt to head for the exit doors as the club relocates back to Auckland for the 2023 season.
The Tongan-born Vailea made his NRL debut as an 18-year-old in Round 20 last year amid an unprecedented injury crisis which saw the Warriors at one point unable to name 21 fit players.
He has gone on to play three games, two last year and Round 1 this year where he was named as one of the club's first-choice centres, only to succumb to a knee injury in the game against the St George Illawarra Dragons on the Sunshine Coast.
He had been part of the Warriors junior system prior to that, having played rugby union before making the switch to the 13-man game.
Club general manager of football Craig Hodges said Vailea is a big part of the Warriors' future.
“Vili is another of our young players who’s a big part of our future,” Hodges said.
“He’s a quality footballer, skilful and aggressive who has adapted really well to rugby league after coming out of a rugby union background.
“He had a great preseason to earn selection as one of our starting centres this year and we couldn’t be happier with the way he’s progressing.”
Vailea has also played 14 games in the QLD Cup through the Warriors' affiliation with Redcliffe, playing 14 games and scoring eight tries, as well as averaging 106 metres per game and making 55 tackle busts.