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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Missing 2016 grand final still driving Felise Kaufusi

Felise Kaufusi is on the precipice of a second premiership in as many seasons but still burns over a snubbing from Melbourne's 2016 grand final side.
Since the Storm's loss to Cronulla two years ago Kaufusi has shot from reserve grade to the game's highest rep honours, his rise as a Kangaroos bolter for last November's World Cup capping a starring role in Melbourne's triumph over North Queensland.
In 2016 Kaufusi jagged 21 games in Craig Bellamy's game day 17, missing only one match between the start of June and round 25, before he was pushed back to Intrust Super Cup just as the Storm began their run to an eventual grand final showdown with the Sharks.
"I was in and out of first grade that whole year but I actually didn't played in the finals leading in, but I was always in the mix," Kaufusi remembers.
"I was going back up to Q Cup and playing there each week. You definitely had to play well up there, I was always in the mix but unfortunately [Bellamy] went another way which was fine. You respect his decision but if anything that did give me more motivation to play the next year.
"I don't like looking back too much, I want to keep moving forward. But it was a wake-up call, a big turning point for me. I knew I had a chance to cement a starting 17 spot and I did that."
With Kevin Proctor leaving to play at the Titans, the quietly-spoken Kaufusi put in all his energies into nailing a starting position at Melbourne.
He did that and then some, continuing his rise into the Queensland Origin side despite a hamstring injury disrupting his season earlier in 2018.
"It's just trying to be consistent and not rest on that one breakout year," he said.
"It's also been a pretty big year with Origin and trying to bring my all to each game."
Kaufusi doesn't shy away from his admiration for Boyd Cordner, who he'll face up against on Sunday night's Telstra Premiership grand final.
The two battled it out for Queensland and New South Wales, with Kaufusi more than holding his own in a beaten side.
"I do actually look up to him, funnily enough," said.
"The way he's tough, he runs hard, he tackles hard. You know what you're going to get from him.
"He leads from the front and is someone you can trust."
And the NSW Origin skipper also praised his opposite, impressing a need to shut-down his attacking combination with retiring fullback Billy Slater.
"He's been in some really good form. He's a powerful runner and skilful as well," Cordner said of Kaufusi.
"I'm going to have to do a job on him defensively and if Billy plays watch their combination down my edge.
"Hopefully we limit his opportunities to create that second phase play."