Paisami's fearless play earning praise in high places

Wed, 26/02/2020, 07:00 am
Emma Greenwood
by Emma Greenwood reporter Sarah Friend previews round five of Super Rugby action. Kicking off on Friday night the Rebels cross the ditch to face the Highlanders in Dunedin. Later the NSW Waratahs host the Lions at Bankwest Stadium then on Saturday night the Reds wrap things up against the Sharks in Brisbane.

Hunter Paisami's physicality has won over one of the toughest players in the sport as he forges a future at the Reds after stepping into the shoes of Wallabies dynamo Jordan Petaia.

Paisami may seem like an overnight success but his Reds rise comes as no surprise to Queensland coach Brad Thorn, who has been closely monitoring the young centre since his arrival in the Sunshine State.

A member of the Rebels' training squad in 2018, Paisami headed north following a nightclub incident that ended his time with the Melbourne club, linking with Brisbane club Wests before bringing his trademark barnstorming style to the NRC with Brisbane City last year.

Even before the injury that ruled Petaia out - cutting the teen sensation's Super Rugby season short for a second successive year - Thorn had earmarked Paisami for bigger things, nominating him as a player to watch if he received an opportunity this season.

And the 21-year-old has proved his mentor right, making every post a winner since donning the no.13 jersey.

Despite starting just twice this season, Paisami sits in the top 10 players in the league for defenders beaten, after bamboozling 14 would-be tacklers in games against the Jaguares and Sunwolves.

But it's the manner of his play that's winning as many fans as his stats.

Paisami attacks every run, hits hard in every tackle and plays every minute as if it could be his last in the game without a thought for self-preservation.

"He's my type of guy, basically, he's my style," Thorn said.

"I like that directness, I love that physicality, as a player I loved backs that are like that. You have your different styles in your team and he just fits in well with what else we have here.

"We have a lot of creativity and you've got good stuff going on all around him but what he brings is unique to him."

Losing Petaia was a massive blow for the Reds but they've unearthed a gem in Paisami.

"It was gutting to lose Jordy but it's showing some positive things that you have the depth to replace him with Hunter," Thorn said.

"I knew him from the 20s, so I've seen Hunter for a long time and I know what he was like.

"I was pleased when I heard he was up this way. We watched him, got him into the NRC - and you know what I think about the NRC, it's just such a great vehicle to bring players through - and then we got him in (at the Reds) and he trained the house down.

"I think part of him doing well is that confidence and the friendship and bond that the guys have.

"It's not like he's just some outsider that's come in and good luck, they're tight, the guys, so I just imagine there's a good confidence going up with the guys and I'm pleased for him."

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