The Warriors confirmed this week that Agnatius Paasi, Ken Maumalo, David Fusitu'a and King Vuniyayawa would return to New Zealand on July 27. Speaking to Christopher Reive, Paasi explains why he made his decision.
Agnatius Paasi has been struggling.
On the field, the Warriors forward has been one of the team's best; scoring tries and providing an energy lift from the bench.
Behind closed doors at the team base in Terrigal, it's a different story.
"It's really tough," Paasi says of leaving his family in New Zealand. "I'm a happy fella. I like to get on the field, play some pranks on everyone and try get the boys going. It's hard when training is done and you come back to your room and your family's not there.
"It gets a bit lonely; luckily I've got some of the boys over here to talk to. But there's sleepless nights; waking up in the middle of the night thinking your family's here when they're not – it's tough."
Now, after two months living in Australia, Paasi, as well as teammates David Fusitu'a, Ken Maumalo and King Vuniyayawa, will return home after next week's match against the Sydney Roosters. Teammate Leivaha Pulu flew home two weeks ago.
For my health and the health of our baby, we need David home. We’ve needed him home for a while.— Eden Fusitu’a (@edenfusitua) July 15, 2020
Ngā mihi @NZWarriors, @RLPlayers, Todd, the welfare staff and the players for being so understanding and supportive.
And David, for being the best husband and soon to be dad 🤎 https://t.co/tLVCq7s3O9
When the Warriors left New Zealand they were hopeful the players' families would soon be able to join them. However, with Covid-19 cases spiking in Victoria recently, the Australian Government has closed borders to all non-Australians. So, while some players were able to be joined by their families, others had to remain separated.
The departing Warriors quartet will return home on July 27 and observe a 14-day quarantine before being able to reunite with their families.
"We came up with the decision a couple of days ago that we would be leaving," explains Paasi. "The boys understood where we were coming from. The Aussie boys have their families out here and I guess from our point of view seeing them with their families made it that much harder that we weren't with our families."
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The players returning are currently in negotiations with the Warriors about whether their pay will be reduced once they leave the group, and Paasi says he is yet to learn what that outcome will be.
For now, the 106-match NRL veteran is looking forward to returning home to his partner and four boys.
"The people over here, the leaders, they know and the coaching staff knew. I told them a while back that I had personal issues going on at home and this was before we flew out so I've been holding on to so much and obviously with my family not here, that just builds the tension even more.
"I just can't wait to go back home and see my immediate family and see how they're doing as well. For me it's more personal – only my immediate family knows about this; I've told some of the boys, so they understand. They were pretty supportive."
Paasi says the players don't feel let down by the NRL for not being able to get their families into the country, knowing the decision ultimately falls on the Government.
The departing players addressed the rest of the group earlier in the week to confirm their decision to leave, and Paasi says while it was a tough conversation to have they received nothing but support from the other players.
"It was a tough one at first, but we gave the NRL pretty much a month when we got here, they were going to bring our families over, then gave them another month and pretty much nothing has changed. All the boys were supportive and happy for us.
"With all the cases in Victoria, I can understand why the Government pushed it back and are not letting anyone over except from Australian citizens. The NRL can only do so much. At the end of the day it's up to the Government and from our point of view I think if all that stuff that's happened in Victoria didn't happen, I reckon we would've had a chance to bring our families over. That was out of the NRL's hands so I understand.
"It was tough right from the beginning. I love my family and I've got a big family as well. I'd just like to thank my partner; she's been doing it tough with four boys.
"I'm just grateful I get to go back home and help her."