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By Matt Holden | 18/10/2012
With several new signings set to join the Black and Whites in 2013 and recruitment still on-going, Hull FC have continued to build a formidable squad for the future with news of a contract extension for promising hooker James Cunningham.

The young international, who is tipped to become a first team regular at the KC Stadium in the near future, was already contracted for next season but has now penned a new and improved deal that will keep him at the club until the end of 2015.

It caps a fine year for the 18-year-old that has seen him earn a first team debut in the away defeat to Catalan Dragons in July and a place in the England Academy side that headed Down Under later that month to face a formidable Australian Schoolboys outfit in a two-test series.

Speaking to about a whirlwind 12 months, Cunningham said, “It’s been a good year and if at the start of it somebody had said that I could make my first team debut, play for the England Academy in Australia and get a new contract with Hull, I’d have snapped their hand off.

“I wasn’t out of contract so it came as a bit of a surprise to be approached about signing an extension, but Hull FC is the only club I want to be at and I’m really happy to get a longer deal sorted.

“My aim now is to try to force my way into the first team on a regular basis. It’s going to be tough because I’ve got some great players ahead of me, but I’ve got three years to do it and I’m just going to keep working hard and trying to improve.”

He added, “I may be competing against them for a place in the side, but I’m very lucky to have Danny Houghton and Aaron Heremaia here at the club. They are both top players but they are great lads too and very easy to learn from.

“Danny in particular has come through the club’s academy and is now an international player, so it’s great to work with somebody who has done what he has and he’s already helping me to become a better player.”

In signing a new contract at the KC Stadium, Cunningham follows the likes of Ben Crooks, Tom Lineham, Josh Bowden, Chris Green, Danny Nicklas and Liam Kent in committing his long-term future to the club in a squad brimming with young English talent.

Head coach Peter Gentle has also strengthened his options with the capture of several new signings such as England international Gareth Ellis and Australian half back Daniel Holdsworth from 2013 as part of plans to build a Black and Whites outfit capable of challenging Super League’s best.

And speaking in an exclusive podcast that will be made available to supporters later today, director of rugby Shaun McRae said youngsters such as Cunningham had a huge role to play in the club’s ambitions for 2013 and beyond.

He said, “We’re delighted that James has extended his contract with the club. He’s a very talented player and we’ve got great hopes for him for the future.

“At the moment, he sits behind Danny Houghton who has a long-term deal at the club and Aaron Heremaia who has another couple of years with us, but you need succession plans and players who are able to come through and put the pressure on.

“He is currently playing predominantly at hooker but I know Peter (Gentle) has some different views on him in terms of where he might be able to play. I think he sees him as a utility player as well, somebody who may be able to slot into the back row and possibly a loose forward role too.

“We’re delighted to be able to keep one of our fine up-and-coming players and it sends out a clear message that we will reward our local talent. I’m sure it won’t be too long before James is playing regular first team rugby league and we’re looking forward to him playing many games for Hull FC.”
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