Maroons forward Felise Kaufusi has given his strongest indication yet that he intends to take up a two-year option in his favour and remain at the Melbourne Storm until the end of 2022.
Kaufusi is signed for next year and has a two-year option in his favour for 2021 and 2022. The 27-year-old was given an opportunity by the Storm in 2014 when he joined the club after four seasons at the Cowboys. It is with Melbourne that he made his NRL debut in 2015 and where he has won the 2017 NRL premiership and represented Australia and Queensland.
"It is a bit of security and I can take those options up by April 30 I think it is. If I am happy there, and I am at the moment, I will keep going down that road," Kaufusi told NRL.com.
"For me it will be all about where I can get the best footy out of myself and at the moment Melbourne is the place I can do that.
"I was with the North Queensland Cowboys in under 20s and was lucky enough to get a first grade contract for one year. I wasn't getting a start and the Melbourne Storm saw something in me. I didn't get a start at the Storm straight away. I had to work hard for it."
Storm's top five tries of 2019
In his final year at the Cowboys the Auckland-born back-rower was not given a crack at NRL. Being overlooked drove Kaufusi and he still likes to prove a point to the Cowboys each time he lines up against them.
"For sure. It was a kick in the old backside to work harder and put myself in the picture of being selected for first grade," he said.
"It all adds up and gives me more motivation when we play against them. Every time we play the Cowboys I know I didn't get my chance there so I give it a bit extra."
Kaufusi is also driven to set a good example for the rising stars in the Storm squad of which giant teenage prop Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and 21-year-old hooker Harry Grant are two of its shining lights.
"We have the leadership group and the emerging leaders and I am in the emerging leader group, but I feel pretty old to be honest," Kaufusi said.
"There is a really young group between the ages of 18 and 24 coming through and in that sense I am a bit more of a leader and they look up to me a bit more.
"Tino is only 19 and we have rookies like Harry Grant who is just biding his time. Tino played for the Junior Kangaroos and was part of the Samoa side at the end of the year and he is only going to get better.
"Harry is such a quality player and what he did in Q-Cup this year shows good he is. In any other NRL team he would definitely find a spot because he is such a tough player, but he is behind the best so it is so tough for him."
The man Grant is behind, skipper Cameron Smith, is expected to return to training later this year ahead of what will be his final season in the NRL. Smith is contracted until the end of 2020 and Kaufusi said his presence would be vital for Melbourne's premiership chances.
"He is pretty tight-lipped and private about it. I know as much as you guys do but I am hoping and praying that when I get to training that he is there. Smithy is still the best player getting around and I believe he is the best player to have ever played," Kaufusi said.
"I know I want him by my side when I get on the field. I think he will be there, but it is up to him."
Kaufusi said the disappointment of losing the 2018 grand final and the 2019 preliminary final to the Roosters would drive the squad to improve next season. He said the lessons of those defeats must be learned.
"We were minor premiers this year but in that semi-final we lost to the Roosters on a night they were a better team. We had opportunities but couldn't ice them off," he said.
"It was a disappointing end to the year but I still think we have the side going forward to put ourselves in that picture again. I think we have to learn from our mistakes. Everyone that played in that grand final loss and semi-final loss will learn going forward."