Tigers star urged to sign new deal

Stefano Utoikamanu is one of the most in-demand forwards in the game. Picture: NRL Photos
Stefano Utoikamanu is one of the most in-demand forwards in the game. Picture: NRL Photos

Wests Tigers skipper Api Koroisau wants teammate Stefano Utoikamanu to remain at the club for the rest of his career, but the veteran hooker doesn’t want to join the “millions of people” telling the in-demand prop what to do.

Utoikamanu has an option to stay at the Tigers in 2025, but he does have get-out clauses if they don’t make the finals, a scenario that looks highly unlikely given they’re stuck in 16th spot with just two wins.

The 24-year-old can also link up with another club if he doesn’t play two State of Origin matches this season, with Utoikamanu overlooked for the series opener having made his Blues debut off the bench in game two a year ago.

The Tigers have reportedly offered him a long-term deal worth about $800,000 a season, and his teammates would love him to stay as the club looks to rebuild under new coach Benji Marshall.

SOO Blues Camp
Stefano Utoikamanu will remain at the Tigers next year if he’s picked in the final two State of Origin matches. Picture: Adam Yip

“It’s out of our control,” Koroisau said.

“It’s a weird position to be in, He’s so young and obviously he’s such a great athlete, great rugby league player. It’s one of those where you’ve just got to take it day by day.

“He’s a young man, he’s got to look after himself, but at the end of the day, I hope he’s a Tiger for life.

“I love playing beside him. Stef, don’t leave!”

While Koroisau would love to play alongside Utoikamanu in the future, he understands it could be counter-productive if too many people start advising the young man.

“I put myself in that position and I feel like it’d be overbearing people trying to tell me to stay or what I should do,” he said.

“I’m sure he’s got a million people in his ear at the moment. Obviously, I make jokes around it, that’s my way of coping. That’s my way of trying to keep him here.”

NRL Rd 4 -  Eels v Tigers
The damaging forward is regarded as one of the best middles in the NRL. Picture: Matt King/Getty Images

Tigers prop Alex Twal says he’ll support whatever decision Utoikamanu makes and encouraged his teammate to choose what’s best for his young family.

“It’s not really my position to be pulling him aside for chats, telling him what to do,” he said.

“At the end of the day, I encourage every single player in the squad to do what’s best for them and their family because ultimately your family is No.1 and everything else comes second.

“I’m sure he’ll make the right decision for him and his family. His wife’s just had another kid so he’s building a little family there. Whatever decision he makes, first and foremost as a good friend and teammate, I’ll be supporting him.”