Scouting Stories - Felise Kaufusi

What's in a name?

The Kaufusis have long been synonymous with Melbourne Storm, since Antonio made his NRL debut for the club back in 2003.

15 years later, the Kaufusi name is still holding strong with Felise and Patrick both based in Melbourne, living out their rugby league dreams.

If it wasn't for their trailblazing brother Antonio there might have been a chance Felise would not land in Melbourne at all.

"We took notice of Felise because of his older brother who went through the system," Storm Recruit Recruitment Manager Paul Bunn said.

"What happened was, we were looking for a forward.

"I'd monitored and followed him for a couple of years as a schoolboy.

"What happened with Felise, he went to the carnivals but he suffered an injury at one of the carnivals so no one really saw the best of him."

Felise Kaufusi tasted Premiership glory in 2017 after a breakout season.
Felise Kaufusi tasted Premiership glory in 2017 after a breakout season.

Playing U20s with the Cowboys in Townsville, Kaufusi came to mind when the Storm hierarchy found themselves searching for a young forward they could develop and become part of the Club's next generation pack.

Some opportunistic timing meant it was a perfect storm of sorts which helped land the 'middle' Kaufusi at Storm with the youngster's agent visiting Melbourne.

"We were looking for a young forward we wanted to develop," Bunn explained.

"Frank (Ponissi) and I had a look about him on video.

"His manager said he's not contracted and I don't see a spot for him up there (with North Queensland).

"He came down and met Craig and Frank as we always do – they ticked off on him...so we ended up signing him."

It wasn't just Kaufusi's big upside that impressed the Melbourne hierarchy, it was the young man's character. After a traditional meeting with Ponissi and head coach Craig Bellamy Storm were sold.

"He came down had a look at the place and he liked talking to Craig," Bunn said.

"He was just a kid who we reckoned with good coaching and development that we could get plenty out of.

"He was such a gentleman when we met him – he's such a great kid."

Since making his NRL debut in 2015, Kaufusi has gradually climbed the first-grade ranks. Last season was without doubt the Bundaberg product's breakout season.

Left to fill the void following the departure of long time second-rower Kevin Proctor, Kaufusi didn't miss a beat in 2017. The 26-year old became an out and out 80 minute starter for Bellamy and turned into one of the competition's most dangerous edge forwards.

The hard work and constant dedication to improve shown by Kaufusi displayed some incredible results in 2017. Premiership glory with Melbourne and an end of season representative debut for Australia at the World Cup capped off a fantastic season for the frizzy haired forward. A maiden Origin appearance now looms in 2018.

"I always thought he would get there and so did a lot of people at our club.

A strong 2017 season earned Kaufusi end of year representative honours with Australia at the World Cup.
A strong 2017 season earned Kaufusi end of year representative honours with Australia at the World Cup.