‘No substitute for hard work’ read Junior Vaivai’s t-shirt when signing his new Hull KR contract. That statement couldn’t be more true.
Plucked from the realms of obscurity five months ago, the centre has gone from an unknown to a key man in that short period of time.
Despite already being under contract for 2019 providing he trigged the second year of his deal, the USA international wrote on the dotted line for a further 12 months, to take him to the end of 2020.
When first arriving at the club, after his protracted journey from Australia to the UK, Vaivai was on the outside of Tim Sheens’ selections. Yet season-ending injuries and off-field issues have seen the centre command one of the two open spots and make it his own.
If Thomas Minns or Andrew Heffernan returned to the line-up tomorrow, it’s fair to say that they’d go from absolute shoo-ins to battling for a place in the team thanks to Vaivai’s form.
Seven tries in eleven appearances is a great return from a player who prior to his transfer to join Sheens’ men hadn’t featured in first-grade rugby for five years.
With those important contributions to help Rovers remain in the top-eight hunt, he’s won over KR’s fanbase and then some.
Supporters are always receptive to extensions but there was something different on social media in the immediate hours of the confirmed news. It’s the perfect added bonus from a positive fortnight for the Robins.
With his future sorted, Vaivai can concentrate on continuing to improve and impress. Sheens has stressed that the 28-year-old is far from the finished article.
That’s pretty scary, considering what we’ve seen him do to Super League sides in his short time over here.
Finally, and probably the most important factor, is that Vaivai’s nearest and dearest are settled. A poignant video featuring his children at the start of his ‘reveal’ interview shows what is most important to the centre.
As so often is the case with overseas stars, a happy family means a happy player.
There may have been a number of rival sides sniffing around, but judging by how Vaivai has embedded himself within the KR culture at such a rapid pace, he’s almost become part of the furniture.
“I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to stay at Hull KR and I think my family are witnesses that I prefer to remain a one-club man rather than jump ships,” said Vaivai. Music to Rovers’ fans ears, that.