Felise Kaufusi trains under the watchful eye of coach Kevin Walters.
Felise Kaufusi trains under the watchful eye of coach Kevin Walters. DAVE HUNT

Kaufusi keen to make his mark in Maroons

NO ONE can doubt what running on to the MCG in a Maroons jersey will mean to Felise Kaufusi on Wednesday night.

When he makes his State of Origin debut, memories will come flooding back for the 26-year-old, who used to scream himself hoarse barracking for the Maroons in front of the TV screen in Bundaberg.

When older brother Antonio made his Origin debut in his sole game in 2007, Kaufusi saw the impact it had on his parents.

And while he was thrilled to learn of his own selection just over a week ago, its significance really sank in when he called his parents.

"I think they're a bit more excited than me to be honest," Kaufusi said.

 

Felise Kaufusi (right) in action during Queensland State of Origin team training at Clive Berghofer Field in Brisbane, Tuesday, May 29, 2018. Queensland are in camp to prepare for game one of the 2018 State of Origin series against New South Wales. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Felise Kaufusi Trains with his Queensland teammates. DARREN ENGLAND

The Storm forward, who has twice been 18th man for the Maroons, fought back tears as he explained what his selection meant to his parents, who came to Australia from Tonga for a better life for their family.

"I told them and they're all pretty proud of me," he said. "For me, it didn't sink in until I came into camp but for them, it was emotional.

"I think I'm the one that's meant to be emotional but I think they're just proud of what I've done.

 

It's massive. I'm pretty proud of where I grew up and as a young fella watching all the State of Origins growing up, we rode all the highs and lows with Queensland."

 

Kaufusi had some nervous moments waiting for a call from coach Kevin Walters, sweating on the match review panel's decision over whether to charge him for a contentious tackle in the Storm's clash against the Cowboys that had been put on report.

But once he was given the all clear, Kaufusi was a certainty for the Maroons who are battling for depth with Matt Gillett out injured.

"I got the call from Kevvie and I was trying to play it down to him on the phone but my heart was racing," Kaufusi said.

"(Being picked for Queensland) really means a lot.

"I watched all the State of Origins growing up and my passion for Queensland grew from there."

 

Felise Kaufusi of Australia is tackled by Chris Saab and Alex Twal (left) of Lebanon during the Pool A, round 3 Rugby League World Cup match between Australia and Lebanon at the Sydney Football Stadium in Sydney, Saturday, November 11, 2017. (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Felise Kaufusi in Australian colours. DAN HIMBRECHTS

While he's a debutant, Kaufusi is far from inexperienced. He represented Australia in last year's World Cup and helped the Storm to a premiership and that big-match experience will be invaluable tonight.

"It's those big games you want to be playing," he said.

"And that's as close as you're going to get to an Origin type of game, I guess, so I think that will help.

"Winning it would be up there but we've got to take it step by step and do what has to be done."