“The biggest kid I had ever seen”
The thought of almost every scout when they first laid eyes on Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
It was certainly the first thing Paul Bunn, Storm recruitment manager, thought when he first laid eyes on the Kiwi prodigy.
Asofa-Solomona was first spotted by former Storm recruiter Darren Bell when he was 15 years of age. Shortly after he was signed up as a scholarship player with the Club and spent the next three years visiting Melbourne on training camps.
However during that time it was far from a guarantee that Asofa-Solomona would ever pull on the purple jersey.
“There was a lot of interest and pressure on Nelson to become a rugby union player and sign with the All Blacks,” Bunn said.
“It was an enourmous amount of pressure, the number one sport in the country is obviously rugby union. He was playing that and he was one of the better young kids in the entire country.
“The All Blacks put a lot of energy into getting him back from rugby league.”
Asofa-Solomona even attended a rugby union school in Wellington.
Yet if Melbourne had concerns they were not made to sweat for long. The character of the teenager meant he was not going to walk away from the Club.
“One of the really noticeable things was Nelson’s loyalty,” Bunn said.
“I remember meeting with him and the family in Wellington and he was describing the pressure that was on him to play rugby.
“Every mum and dad would love their kid to be an All Black, it is a dream of every family in New Zealand. However Nelson was a kid who recognised the fact that the Melbourne Storm were the first to show interest.
“He repaid us with that loyalty.”
He repaid it then and continues to now.
Asofa-Solomona’s family recently moved over to Melbourne and it appears to have been the final piece in the puzzle.
He has made an outstanding start to the 2018 season. The 22-year-old has made the step up to the starting side and taking the responsibility in his stride.
Asofa-Solomona is averaging more than 10 metres every time he runs with the football and has become one of the most powerful players in the competition.
That potential that was realised more than seven years ago is beginning to shine through in spades and Storm fans are quickly falling in love with their new hero.
“All the coaches have worked so hard with him,” Bunn said.
“I reckon Craig and the other coaches would just be so proud to see him doing what he is doing now.”