Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Fusitu'a centre of attention

Warriors centre David Fusitu'a makes his mark against the Knights. Photo / Getty Images
Warriors centre David Fusitu'a makes his mark against the Knights. Photo / Getty Images

Stephen Kearney had made up his mind about David Fusitu'a even before he arrived to coach the Warriors last year.

As Kearney pondered the potential playing roster at Mt Smart, Fusitu'a was immediately fixed as one of his centres.

The 22-year-old has played across the backline since his NRL debut in 2014, but Kearney saw only one position for the former Marist junior.

"I had decided that before I came here," said Kearney. "Before we started pre-season. That's his best position and I hope he can develop there."

Fusitu'a emergence this year could be crucial. Centre is one of the most important positions in the game, but the Warriors have struggled to find convincing options in the past decade.

Jerome Ropati was the last home-grown success - before injuries intervened - while Konrad Hurrell had some great periods but never found true consistency and Ngani Laumape converted to rugby.

Dane Nielsen was reliable but lacked any real attacking threat while Krisnan Inu was the ultimate rocks and diamonds player. Converted forwards such as Lewis Brown and Ben Henry were steady and others like Carlos Tuimavave and Tui Lolohea were tried without much success.

Solomone Kata has developed well on the left edge and Fusitu'a could be the game changer on the right.

He has pace, power and athleticism, as well as his famed prowess in the air. Putting aside his three tries against the Knights, it was his sheer presence that made a difference. Fusitu'a made several strong runs out of his own half and his threat on the right edge concentrated defenders, giving playmaker Shaun Johnson another split second.

No one should get carried away yet - and Fusitu'a has work to do, especially on his defensive reads - but he adds another dimension to the Warriors' attack.

Fusitu'a has always coveted the No4 jersey.

"That is the position I am going to try to stick to," said Fusitu'a. "Last year I was chucked around a bit." Fusitu'a has always been a talent, but seemed to come of age last year, culminating in a call up to the Kiwis.

"I got a lot of confidence from that tour," said Fusitu'a.

"It was great to be able to rub shoulders with those players, learn from them and be able to bring it back and try and implement it into my own team."

The next step is to become a consistent week to week performer. It won't be easy - as centre presents arguably the greatest defensive challenge in the game - but he is capable.

"I think I am ready and that is definitely a goal of mine," said Fusitu'a. "Not only staying on the field, with no injuries, but also to consistently perform and be a reliable player."

- NZ Herald

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