UPDATED: Thorn gets his man as young gun re-signs with Reds

Super Rugby - AU
by Christy Doran

In a boost for Australian rugby, Hunter Paisami has become the first player to put pen to paper following the contract freeze and re-signed with the Queensland Reds.

Paisami, 22, has signed a new two-year deal with the Reds following his breakout season for the club, which saw him included in Dave Rennie's 'Players of National Interest' squad in April.

Reds coach Brad Thorn was naturally delighted by the direct-running centre's decision to stay put in Australia.

"He's a good humble guy, tough football player...he's come into Super Rugby in the preseason, got his chance and made every post a winner," he said on Thursday.

"We just like him, he plays hard, tough footy, he's a great guy, fits in really well with the group.

"He loves being here and we're pleased he likes being here and want him to stay longer."

Super Rugby clubs are now free to resume re-signing and recruiting players after a contracting freeze was lifted last week and Thorn said he hoped others followed Paisami in committing to Australian rugby.

"I guess we'll look into all that kind of stuff. It's a positive message isn't it?," he said.

"That's a really good thing, you want as many good footballers in the country as you can staying on here and continuing to grow the game in this country, so we're really happy around that."

Given the uncertainty surrounding the code's domestic future, Paisami's retention is a big boost for the 15-man game.

The Samoan-born midfielder turned heads earlier in the year, particularly after his eye-capturing performance against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires where he combined spectacularly with James O'Connor to make a number of surging charges.

Making the performance all the more special was that he had come in to replace boom Wallabies back Jordan Petaia, who injured his shoulder in the lead up to match during training when bracing for contact with Paisami.

While that was an unfortunate accident, Paisami's physicality is the quality that Thorn values the most and a factor that helped propel him up the ranks.

"Coaching against him, he went hard as a 19-year-old so I knew that (he had that), then at club and then st NRC you saw those same qualities," Thorn said.

"I wasn't massively surprised (with his Super Rugby form) because I know, being an ex-player, I know what it takes when you take those steps up and that physicality and intensity can take you a long way.

"We've been really pleased with him and he's fitted in really well, he's very close with all the guys and he's just enjoying his footy and we're enjoying having him here, we're just stoked that he's staying on."

It was only 18 months ago that Paisami was considering giving the game away, after feeling homesick in Brisbane following his move to the Sunshine State from Melbourne.

But after eventually settling in Brisbane, which saw the youngster sleeping in his manager's office, Paisami was invited to play for Jim McKay's Brisbane City following a successful season with Wests in club rugby.

The former Rebels squad member has not put a foot wrong since, earning selection in Rennie's PONI squad after just a handful of matches.

Paisami said he was pleased to be staying put at the Reds.

"It's an honour for me to stay here in Queensland," the softly-spoken inside back said.

"I've loved my time here at the Reds. I don't see myself anywhere else. I've made some good mates here through rugby.

"Over these next couple of years, I want to work hard for the boys and do my job for the team and play some good consistent footy." 

Paisami will once again wear the No.13 jersey against the Brumbies on Saturday night, with incumbent Wallabies outside centre Petaia set to make his return for the Reds off the bench.

The Reds take on the Brumbies on Saturday August 1 at GIO Stadium, Canberra, kicking off at 7:15pm AEST, LIVE on Foxtel, Foxtel Now and Kayo Sports. Buy tickets here. Buy a Kayo subscription here.