Hooker Nathan Friend will extend his time with the Vodafone Warriors to three seasons after today signing a new contract for at least another year.
The 32-year-old Toowoomba-born veteran became Vodafone Warrior No 171 when he made his debut in the season-opening clash against Manly last year after stints with Brisbane, Melbourne and Gold Coast.
After missing the first three games this season following shoulder surgery, Friend will be making his 18th consecutive appearance when he lines up against Penrith in Sunday’s 23rd-round encounter at Mount Smart Stadium (4.00pm kick-off).
“It’s fantastic to have my future sorted out here with the Vodafone Warriors,” said Friend.
“While we looked at other options, this is where I wanted to be all along. I couldn’t be happier staying with this club.
“It’s also where we want to be as a family. We love it in Auckland and now we can really look forward to staying on.”
Head coach Matthew Elliott said securing Friend was a significant boost looking ahead to the rest of this season and the 2014 campaign.
“He brings a lot to our club both on the field and off it,” he said.
“From the outset our attitude was that we wanted to be able to keep Nathan and we’ve been able to achieve it. That’s brilliant for him and for his family as well as us and also our members and fans.
“It’s never easy at times when players are in contract discussions but it’s a huge credit to Friendy the way he has handled this situation. He has never let it affect his efforts on the field.”
Friend’s skills out of dummy half and his renowned defensive capabilities were on show in 17 appearances last season when he averaged almost 42 tackles a game. His work-rate on defence has gone up again this season as he has averaged close to 47 tackles a match including single game counts of 61, 60, 57, 56 and 51 along the way. He’s the club’s top defender this year with 793 tackles and is sixth overall in the NRL despite missing three games (those ahead of him have all played every match this year).
Set to play his 170th career match this weekend, Friend made his NRL debut with the Brisbane Broncos in 2002 followed by 34 games for Melbourne and 100 for the Gold Coast Titans before moving to Auckland. He was the Titans’ 2009 player of the year and has regularly been one of the NRL’s busiest defenders. In 2010 he totalled 1120 tackles (the most of all players), 1067 in 2009, 910 in 2008 and 783 in 2007.
Friend is also a qualified personal trainer and a bricklayer by trade.