The Newcastle Knights' NYC new recruit, Ken Tofilau has taken out the New Zealand Domestic Player of the Year award after a standout season playing in New Zealand's Pirtek National Premiership.
Tofilau was also nominated in the under 18s category, but instead took out the top honour after winning out against more experienced, open aged players.
The talented youngster was stunned to learn he’d won the open age award that he'd earned when playing as a 17-year-old for the premiership-winning Canterbury Bulls in the New Zealand National Rugby League competition.
“It’s surprising. I doubted that I had a chance of winning this award but thought I might have more luck with the 18s award,” Tofilau said.
The now 18-year-old has made a habit of excelling on the football field beyond his age and comes with an impressive list of representative honours.
Born in Auckland New Zealand, and raised in Christchurch from the age of eight, Tofilau says he started to attract attention on the football field when he was around 15-years-old.
“People started saying I could take my football far,” he said.
The young fullback started completing his own extra training sessions and was chosen to play in the NZ Merit team before the Canterbury Bulls.
During his time with Canterbury Bulls, Tofilau was one of the youngest in the team and says he learned from the guidance of his older teammates.
“All of the team was older and they helped me with what to do on the field,” he said.
“I’d just do what they said and I ended up scoring tries out if it.”
Now the Kiwi has made the move to Newcastle in search of an opportunity to take his football to the next level.
By all accounts he’s settled in well to Newcastle's lifestyle, has made improvements in training and has already formed bonds with his teammates.
“I’ve enjoyed meeting people in my team. Everyone works together well and don’t just do their own thing,” he said.
“The difference is the weather and that there’s way more training here.”
NYC coach Troy Pezet was impressed by the new recruit’s award and said the NYC Knights is fortunate to have him join the squad for the 2015 season.
“Ken has been wonderful and has acclimatised really well. He’s settled in and is really popular with the boys,” Pezet said.
“The accolade is especially impressive as it is an open age award, for a kid that was 17 at the time to be playing men’s football and to win the Player of the Year is a huge achievement.
“It’s something that us as coaching staff are really impressed with.
“Most 18-year-old kids are playing schoolboys footy."
Pezet now looks forward to Tofilau displaying his skill and talent when the season kicks off and further establishing himself in the squad.
“After a full pre-season of weights and training he’s grown a fair bit so may be used in a number of position in the outside backs."