Stevie Ward has signed a new five-year deal with Leeds Rhinos.
Ward, who turns 22 on Tuesday, has made 82 appearances for the Rhinos since since making his debut in 2012.
The back-rower has also been handed the number 13 shirt vacated by Rhinos legend Kevin Sinfield at the end of last season.
In fact the Leeds-born loose forward will become only the fifth player to don the famous number 13 jersey for the Rhinos in Super League, after Mike Forshaw, Iestyn Harris, Daryl Powell and Sinfield.
Ward told the Rhinos website; “I am immensely proud that the club have decided to give me the number 13 squad number, it is a dream come true. I was six when Kev first wore it so that is all I have ever known and it is an honour to receive the number after him. Growing up supporting the Rhinos, it was my dream to play for Leeds but it was always the number 13 shirt that I wanted to wear.”
In Super League XX, Ward made 25 appearances for Leeds but picked up a season-ending knee injury in the victory over Huddersfield Giants that secured the Rhinos the League Leaders Shield.
“I was really pleased with how last season went for me, it was my most consistent season so far,” Ward continued.
“Since I suffered the injury, it has obviously been frustrating but I am positive about the future. The injury was complicated so things have had to take their natural course. I will have the operation on my knee on Monday and it will be assessed after that how long I will be out for. This has been a massive boost for me as I look ahead to the next few months and getting myself back fully fit.
Ward added: “I was delighted to sign my new contract as well. There is a great group of young players here at the club who have committed to each other, and the club, to take the Rhinos forward over the next few years. The club have continued to show faith in the young players and rewarded them with long term deals so we can build something special together. Inevitably that will take time but we know from recent history the benefits that brings.”