Playing Super Rugby a 'dream come true': Paisami

Tue, 03/03/2020, 07:00 am
Emma Greenwood
by Emma Greenwood
Hunter Paisami in action for the Reds against the Sharks. Photo: Getty Images
Hunter Paisami in action for the Reds against the Sharks. Photo: Getty Images

He's the hard-running, crash-tackling dietitian's nightmare who will realise a boyhood dream when he lines up in Christchurch this weekend against Super Rugby's toughest team.

Hunter Paisami will tick off another milestone in his blossoming professional career when he runs out for the Reds against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.

The Auckland-raised Paisami was a member of the Blues' U18 side but never made it to the South Island for a match, even though he idolised some of their players.

"I've always liked watching the Crusaders growing up, they're just a really basic team," Paisami said.

"They're really spot on with the stuff they do and not afraid to attack you."

Paisami returns as a proud Red though, thrilled at having been handed an opportunity this season.

A 92kg ball of muscle - he's slimmed down from 95kg over the past few months despite a diet that includes his go-to sweet and sour pork takeaway - Paisami has been a revelation since stepping into the no.13 jersey vacated by Jordan Petaia.

Even before a the shoulder injury that prematurely ended Petaia's season, Paisami was in the sights of coach Brad Thorn after a breakthrough NRC season for Brisbane City.

"NRC was good for me, especially having Jimmy McKay there," Paisami said.

"Obviously he's the backs coach for the Reds, so I tried to learn the most off him (I could) as a head coach of Brisbane City and it was good to be able to build int eh NRC and into the pre-season."

While the NRC attracts scorn in some circles, Thorn is a massive fan of the league and Queensland use the competition as a stepping stone between the Brisbane Premier competition and Super Rugby to help their younger players, in particular, make the transition to the elite level.

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

"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."

Paisami brought his take-no-prisoner style to Super Rugby, first as a replacement and then as a starter after Petaia's injury, making immediate impact in games against the Jaguares and Sunwolves.

"It's a dream come true for me to play Super Rugby, especially for the Reds," Paisami said.

"It's a big opportunity to play every Saturday with the boys, it's a blessing.

"I didn't expect it this early to be honest. I thought I would get my debut towards the end of the year, I just didn't expect it this early.

"I just love getting out there and making the most of that 13 jersey.

"Just take (the chance) with two hands, I might not get it again, so I just give it all out from the whistle to the end." 

Part of that may have stemmed from the fact the now-21-year-old was cut loose by the Melbourne Rebels at the end of the 2018 season after being charged with affray following a nightclub incident.

But he moved to Brisbane, linking with Wests after finding familiar faces at the Bulldogs, and making the most of his second chance.

"My manager mentioned a few clubs to go to and Wests are obviously the underdogs and I just decided to go there," Paisami said.

"I knew two boys that were from Melbourne who went there, so I moved in with them and went to training.

"That was the goal (to get to Reds) but I was pretty scared because my manager was looking overseas during that season and I just thought I'd have two to three seasons at Wests before I went to the Reds.

"Now, it's just stay here and try and make the most of it and try and be here long-term."

The Reds take on the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday, March 6, kicking off at 5:05pm AEDT and broadcast LIVE on Fox Sports, Kayo and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO.

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