Selected in the Kiwis this week, Fusitu’a – 22 on October 16 – has just completed the most intensive season of his career, appearing in each one of the Vodafone Warriors’ last 18 matches after starting the campaign with five games for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side.
The Marist Saints junior finished the year with 11 tries – including four against Newcastle at Hunter Stadium in June – to lift his career tally to 20 tries in 33 first-grade matches.
His outstanding form – averaging 136 metres with 14 line breaks – culminated in him being included as one of five newcomers in the Kiwi squad for the October 15 Test against the Kangaroos in Perth and the following Four Nations competition in England.
While Fusitu’a has been signed to the end of the 2019 NRL season, the Vodafone Warriors have also secured Vodafone Junior Warriors Papalii for three years and Pauga for two years.
Mount Albert Grammar School pupil Papalii, a Te Atatu Roosters junior, has fashioned an impressive record in both rugby league and rugby union as well as being a powerlifting champion.
He was one of a host of 17-year-olds who made their NYC debuts for the Vodafone Junior Warriors this year. Selected for the Junior Kiwis in May, he played 11 NYC matches in a year when he was unavailable for much of the season due to First XV rugby union commitments with the champion Mount Albert Grammar side. MAGS won the Auckland championship and then took out the New Zealand Secondary Schools title being Hastings Boys’ High School 14-13 in the final. Used at prop by the Vodafone Junior Warriors, flanker Papalii scored Mount Albert Grammar’s only try of the final and was named the New Zealand First XV Player of the Year.
In his 11 NYC games he scored six tries while averaging 13.27 runs, 134 metres and 30.54 tackles.
Pauga (20) scored eight tries in 23 appearances in his second and last NYC season. A standout with the ball, he topped 3300 metres – an average of 146 metres a game – including 11 line breaks and an exceptional 128 tackle breaks, by far the most of any player in the side. He also debuted for club’s Intrust Super Premiership side this year.