Debutant Konrad Hurrell impresses coaches
He's yet to play an NRL game but rising Warriors star Konrad Hurrell appears to have done enough in his first preseason with the top squad to warrant a contract extension.
The former Auckland Grammar rugby union talent was initially signed until the end of 2012 after impressing while playing for the club's champion under-20s side last year.
However, after two strong performances for the first-grade side during the preseason trials, it's understood Hurrell has been offered a contract extension for several more years.
An announcement is expected in the next week.
For the 100kg utility back, the latest news has left him in a state of disbelief.
"I'm in the Warriors' top-25 squad and it's a dream come true to me, to be honest," Hurrell, 20, said.
"I can't even say how I'm feeling right now. I know that I'm just so lucky to be training with these boys and these coaches. This game is still new to me and I'm going to keep learning from them as long as I can."
Hurrell, who moved from Tonga to New Zealand in March 2009, has spent just one year playing rugby league.
Last season, he was a star for John Ackland's under-20s team, scoring 22 tries in 21 games while playing in the centres. His performances saw him included in the Toyota Cup's team of the year, alongside team-mates Omar Slaimankhel and Carlos Tuimavave.
He was promoted to the first-grade squad for 2012, partly because he's now too old to play in the under-20 competition.
He believes he's never been fitter after his preseason campaign.
"It's like the hardest training I've ever done but I am still enjoying it," he said. "This is the best career ever and I'm not surprised at how much work we are doing. I'd heard all about it but my body is certainly surprised. This is my first year training with the top side and the guys here are really helping me out."
As a budding rugby player in the islands, Hurrell idolised All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu and barnstorming Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei.
Ironically, he's now playing alongside "The Beast" and given the pair are similar players, it's not surprising that Vatuvei has taken Hurrell under his wing.
"When I grew up, I wanted to be like them [Lomu and Vatuvei] – big and running through everyone," Hurrell said. "What I liked, too, was that Manu seemed like a really nice guy, you know, always smiling and stuff. He's a great guy, Manu, and he's real popular in my homeland."
On the back of his contract extension and based on the fact that Warriors coach Brian McClennan has used Hurrell in his playing squad throughout the preseason, it's probably a case of when – rather than if – the young centre will make his first-grade debut this year.
He'll turn out for the Warriors again in the final preseason affair against the Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles in Whangarei on Saturday.
However, as for the NRL season, Hurrell says he isn't getting caught up in setting targets for the number of games he'll play this year.
"Hopefully, I'll just get a run in the top side. This is just my second year of league but I'd love to play at least once in the NRL."