Image: Melinda Jane
Warrington Wolves are delighted to confirm the signing of prop Sitaleki Akauola from NRL side Penrith Panthers on a two-year deal as of next season until the end of November 2019.
Kiwi Akauola, 25, is a Tongan national representative and made his club debut for the Panthers in 2016 having signed from Wests Tigers; for who he previously made his first-grade debut for in 2013. He’s made 21 appearances for Penrith since signing.
Chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick said: “We’ve been monitoring the player market very carefully and waiting for the right type of player to become available. When we were made aware of Sitaleki’s availability we knew we had to act fast as he’s extremely well thought of in the NRL. With his aggressive style and explosive running he gained a great reputation in Australia, I think he’ll become a firm favourite with the Warrington supporters.”
Head of coaching and rugby Tony Smith added: “We are looking forward to Sitaleki joining us. He’s certainly got impact. He’s a big man who will bring plenty of attributes to us and into our forward pack. It’s a very good signing. He’s keen to play in Super League and I think he’s just the right player at this time when we need to strengthen in that area. He’ll bring us exactly what we need.”
Akauola said on the move: “For me personally it’s a really good opportunity to give me that extra drive. I’ve heard a lot about the Super League so I am excited and looking forward to the new challenges. I know there’s a lot of quality players at the Warrington club so hopefully I can add something to that. I like the crash and bash in the middle.
“I’ve spoken to Peta (Hiku) about the move, he’s said nothing but good things. He loves it over there and since he moved the players have all made him feel very welcome which is good to hear. I’m looking forward to being part of Warrington Wolves.”
Centre and fellow former Panther Peta Hiku said: “We were at school and played local footy together so he’s similar to me; knowing the way he’s been brought up he’ll come over here and enjoy it. I think he’ll add a lot of positives to the team. He’s a really strong carry, very quick and an aggressive player, and will be good for us.
“Off the field he’s a caring person and a family man; he was always looking after me back at home. He’s one of the nicest people off the field. Everyone here at the club will take him in I’m sure and he’ll get along with all the boys with me being here too.”
The signing of Akauola is subject to a visa.
“Sitaleki Akauola: If I had to choose just one hit-up to watch each week, it would be this bloke’s first touch of the ball. He is Penrith’s Mister Kamikaze!” Andrew Voss, March 2017