NRL: Ropati extends contract to 2012

By Michael Brown

Jerome Ropati became the latest World Cup-winning Kiwi to recommit to the Warriors after signing a new deal which will keep him at Mt Smart Stadium until the end of 2012.

The news comes on the back of the recent re-signing of second rower and fellow Kiwi Simon Mannering, who also committed to the end of 2012.

Ropati has developed into an automatic choice at centre, after flirtations at five-eighths and fullback and even lock and wing.

The 24-year-old is highly valued at the club, with coach Ivan Cleary describing him as a player of "special quality", and he has been something of a quiet achiever.

Last night against the Broncos, he played his 94th NRL game since his debut against the Roosters in 2003 and he went into that match with 37 tries, including four against the Roosters in 2006 scored from five-eighths.

He also has 10 test caps, including one in last year's 34-20 World Cup final victory over Australia in Brisbane.

Ropati is in line to become only the third Warrior, behind Stacey Jones and Awen Guttenbeil, to play first grade for more than a decade at the club, if he plays to the end of 2012.

"My wish was always to stay here in Auckland," Ropati said. "This club means so much to me.

"I've been part of a team that has enjoyed some success after difficult times and I want to do all I can to help us become one of the most consistent in the competition."

The Warriors are focused on upgrading a handful of players in the present squad after they recently missed out on Kiwis utility Greg Eastwood.

Jones, Steve Price, Nathan Fien, Lance Hohaia, Ian Henderson, Evarn Tuimavave, Liam Foran, Aidan Kirk, Patrick Ah Van and Malo Solomona are all off contract at the end of the season.

Negotiations are under way with Henderson and Hohaia, while Fien is expected to take up a three-year deal with Huddersfield, but the futures of the remainder are up in the air.

Price is still undecided about whether he will extend his career, already 302 games old, into a 17th season.

He is playing well enough to justify another contract - after two rounds, he led the NRL for total hit-ups (41) and was second on metres gained (333) - but he has talked about wanting to get out before the slide kicked in.

Tuimavave is struggling with a neck injury and there is doubt whether he will recover in time to play this year and it is still early in Jones' return to the NRL.

- Herald on Sunday

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