Thursday 14 December 2017 / 01:16 AM

HIKU: KEARNEY THE DRAWCARD

The opportunity to link up with Stephen Kearney at the Warriors was all Peta Hiku needed to convince him to rejoin his junior club on a long-term deal from 2018.

In what must have been one of the shortest negotiating processes conducted this off-season, Hiku said it was a no-brainer to return to Auckland and play under Kearney, the coach he believes has got the best out of him on the international stage with the Kiwis in the past.

After linking with the Warrington Wolves mid-season, Hiku was granted a release to take up a three-year deal at Mount Smart Stadium, where he was previously a standout for the Junior Warriors before leaving for Australia.

“[Kearney] was a big part of it, he sort of told me when I was in Warrington that I should be playing for the Kiwis, which gave me a real boost,” Hiku said.

“He knew what a good player I was, or could be, which is what I didn’t see in myself, so hearing that from him made it easier.

“Every time I have played under him he has always given me the confidence to play my best.

“When he approached I was more than happy to come back, I didn’t even give it a second thought… he has been really good for me.”

Physical struggles, including a horrific 2016 knee injury which saw him tear both his MCL and ACL, coupled with the emergence of several outside backs at the Penrith Panthers, saw Hiku released from the club in June this year.

Having initially signed with Warrington for two and a half years, the 25-year-old was set to remain in the Super League until the end of the 2019 season, but said the goal was always to get back to the NRL.

“I enjoyed the experience, the team were going good and they all looked after it me… it was a good journey and I am actually quite happy I went over there,” Hiku said.

“Warrington gave me back all that confidence and belief. I could enjoy my footy again.

“[But] I had the mindset when I went over there that I was always going to come back.

“My family was over here and my dream was always to play NRL, and I want to play NRL for as long as I can, so I always wanted to come back.

“[The Warriors] was probably the only offer I had at the time, but I am more than happy to be back in the team, be back home, I am looking forward to playing for the Warriors again.”

After receiving an unlikely call-up for the Kiwis at the Rugby League World Cup, Hiku starred in his sole appearance against Scotland, scoring three tries and running for 246 metres.

In 2018 he will vie for a centre or wing spot in what shapes as a highly competitive Warriors backline, with David Fusitu’a, Ken Maumalo, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Solomone Kata, Blake Ayshford, Gerard Beale and Hiku, all at the club.

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