Powerhouse front-rower Jacob Saifiti is determined to leave an indelible mark at the Newcastle Knights.
It’s one of the key motives behind the Central Coast product re-signing with the NRL club until at least the end of the 2027 season.
Despite being in demand by several rivals, the 2021 Danny Buderus Medallist opted to remain in the Hunter, after agreeing to terms on a new three-year contract.
“It means a lot to stay here… and my family was a big part of the reason,” Saifiti said.
“My wife and I are very comfortable in Newcastle.
“Plus, we’ve built a lot of good relationships and my home (Central Coast) is only an hour away.
“So, for me and my family, remaining with the Knights is very special.
“I definitely want to wear the jumper for the rest of my career.
“I’d love to finish up here as a one-club player.”
Surprisingly, twin brother Daniel played no role in the outcome.
“When it comes to things like this, we sort of leave each other be,” Saifiti said.
“Bear in mind, it’s probably my last decent contract, so I really wanted to take my time with it and make sure it was the right decision.
“But, I’m very comfortable with it.
“Newcastle’s home to me and I want to play the rest of my career here.
“I thought about the direction the club was heading in, too.
“And, now that I’ve signed on, I’m keen to take the Knights to special places with the likes of Kalyn (Ponga) and Daniel.
“I want to lead from the front.”
The 27-year-old debuted for Newcastle against the Gold Coast Titans in the opening round of the 2016 season, after making his international introduction for Fiji the previous season.
He’s since donned the “red and blue” jumper on 142 occasions and twice represented NSW in the State of Origin arena.
So, Saifiti’s certainly experienced the highs and lows at the Knights.
“That’s probably another one of my reasons for staying,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.
“I was here for the three wooden spoons… and it was a tough period.
“However, I feel like our premiership window is coming up, so I couldn’t leave.
“As happy as I would be for the boys to win [a title], I’d like to be a part of it, too.
“I’ve been here for the bad times, so I want to be here for the good ones.
“You can see how much it means for the guys as well.
“Everyone’s returned to training in great shape and, already, recording PBs.
“I think we’ve learned from the past… where we’re usually trying to catch up with fitness, instead of getting the ball in our hands, we’re maybe two weeks ahead of where we’ve been before.
“That shows me the hunger is there.
“Even though we finished the season well, that loss to the Warriors in the final left sour tastes in a lot of the leaders’ mouths.
“We’ve come back ready to rip in.”
Saifiti admitted it was nice to be courted by rival clubs… but Newcastle held a place in his heart.
“There were a few weeks, after 1 November, where I was approached with a couple of offers,” he said.
“Obviously, it was something to think about.
“I’m 27 now, so I’m not getting any younger.
“I needed to think of my future and my family.
“But, in the back of my mind, I always wanted to stay.
“It’s home and has been close to nine years.
“Like I said before, I’m very comfortable in my surroundings at Newcastle.
“Then there’s the Knights as a club and the community.
“I grew up on the Central Coast and Newcastle just feels like a bigger version of that.
“I’m 10 minutes from the beach and close with all the boys here.
“The community is brilliant, too.
“They really got behind us last season, which was another reason for me to stay.
“We’ve always had good fans.
“Even when we won one game, we were still averaging 18,000.
“So, you want to lift and do your best for them.
“That run we had, getting 20,000 to every home game, it was terrific to see the joy on their faces.”
As for personal aims, State of Origin remains high on the list.
“It’s a goal of mine to play a couple more games in that arena,” he said.
“I’m keen to put my best foot forward and see what happens.”
Newcastle Knights director of football Peter Parr said Saifiti’s extension was wonderful news for the club.
“Jacob has shown over the past few seasons that he is one of the most consistent middle forwards in the NRL,” he stated.
“We have no doubt his best remains in front of him and we are delighted he has re-committed to the Knights.”
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