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It's difficult to reconcile the gentle voice on the other end of the phone with the public persona of Sione Faumuina.

Softly spoken and humble in that quintessentially Polynesian way, there's no hint of the wild man whose parting shots at the Warriors came in the form of several wide-ranging, drunken and abusive rants towards the end of last season. No clue he's the sort of guy who'd walk away from a lucrative three-year contract at a new club after just a week without even telling his manager.

Nor is there much to suggest you're talking to a player whose extravagant on-field skills mark him as one of the most gifted Kiwi league players of his generation.

Unquestionably volatile and fragile in equal measures, Faumuina has been described as a ticking bomb whose bizarre behaviour was about as predictable as an Agatha Christie novel.

Strangely then, he actually sounds quite shy.

He also sounds as if he may have found salvation in the North Queensland outpost of Townsville.

"Being in New Zealand those last few months done my head in a wee bit," he says in what seems a fairly generous understatement.

"I needed to get away and being up here in Townsville has really done wonders. I love it up here. There's a great bunch of guys and a great atmosphere at the club. Townsville is a nice laid-back town and the weather is great. I'm really enjoying my football and my time up here."

The Cowboys enjoy having him too.

Faumuina has been a steady presence for the fourth-placed club, appearing in 12 of their 15 matches this season. If his stats have been a little underwhelming - two tries, two try assist and five linebreaks - Faumuina can at least point to having discovered the consistency many felt he lacked at the Warriors.

And his offload game is still intact, his 22 passes out of the tackle ranking him 10th in the NRL.

"Coming to a new club with a different style of play and new surroundings, I guess I am just trying to find my way in the team. The coaches are pretty happy, but they know I can do a lot more."

Most significantly, not a single incident of drunken rabble rousing has been reported during his time at the club. But Faumuina is a long way from living down his bad boy reputation.

Last week, when his girlfriend, Silver Fern Temepara George, announced she was taking a break from international netball, newspaper reports immediately speculated that she was doing so to spend more time with Faumuina.

The inference was clear: not only was Faumuina a destructive influence on his own career, he was now dragging down one of New Zealand's top female sportspeople.

Since heading to Townsville, Faumuina has dodged the media spotlight. He was happy to talk to the Herald ahead of tonight's game against the Warriors, but he wasn't about to discuss his personal life.

"I don't know if I want to really go down that path mate, talking about [George]."

He was, however, happy to talk about walking out on the London Broncos to join the Cowboys.

"I guess the main reason was that I still believed I had a lot to offer in the NRL and I wanted to win a championship. My heart just wasn't in the Super League.

"When I left the Warriors I had quite a few offers from NRL clubs but the money in the UK was just too good. But when I got there I knew straight away it wasn't the place for me. I guess it goes to show that money isn't always the right decision.

"I believe I've done the right thing for myself and my family. I can always go to Super League for a couple of years towards the end but I am only 26. I've still got my best years ahead of me."

After originally fobbing off tonight's match as just another game, Faumuina admitted it was anything but.

"I guess I'm telling a lie there. Every time I play the Warriors I try to get myself ready, more so than against any other team. I have got a point to prove against my old club."

He also feels he has a point to prove at international level, with his two test appearances to date - the most recent in 2004 - hardly doing justice to his talent.

With his mother and extended family also living in Brisbane and good friend Se'e Solomona, another former Warrior, living nearby in Townsville, Faumuina seems to have found his happy place.