Kaufusi: ‘It’s really special’

Published 3:00pm 24 July 2023

Kaufusi: ‘It’s really special’
Words by Kylie Knight

Felise Kaufusi, ‘the boy from Bundy’, will play his first NRL game on the oval he played at as a kid on Sunday when the Dolphins take on the Bulldogs.

The teams will face-off at Bundaberg’s Salter Oval on Sunday at 2pm.

With six rounds of the regular season remaining, the Dolphins’ NRL side remains in the hunt for a finals berth in their inaugural season but must string together some more wins starting this week.

See photos from training in the gallery at the end of this story

While it may be a ‘home game’ for the Bulldogs, it is expected to feel more like it for the Dolphins whose catchment takes in Bundaberg.

The Dolphins are coming off a bye in 13th place after a solid performance against reigning premiers Penrith Panthers at Redcliffe on July 15, going down 24-14.

The Bulldogs are coming off a thrashing at the hands of Penrith (44-18) and are in 16th place on the ladder.

For Kaufusi, the connection between Bundaberg and the Dolphins is one that will create opportunities he and other players of his generation didn’t have.

He’s thrilled to be playing there in a Dolphins jersey and to demonstrate what is possible with hard work and opportunity.

“It’s huge. I don’t think the young guys coming up realise how much more of an opportunity or pathway that this provides for them. It’s something, not just me but other boys who came through the system didn’t have,” he says.

The game is sold out, the 11th this season involving the NRL newcomers.

“It’s really special to be honest. That’s where I obviously grew up, played all my junior footy. I still have a lot of family there. It’s home to me, so definitely looking forward to heading back there. To have an NRL game, a Dolphins’ NRL game, there in front of my home town is pretty special,” he says.

“I’m thinking at least half the crowd will be family or extended and I’m still getting hit up by some long, lost cousins as well from around the area. There will be plenty of Kaufusis getting around.”

Kaufusi: ‘It’s really special’

Big moment

So, what can the crowd expect from Kaufusi on Sunday?

“I know I’ll be excited, so I guess I’ll have to control my nerves. I’ve obviously got in trouble throughout this year, getting a bit too aggressive, too hot-headed. I just need to keep my calm and play my game and be looking to do my job for the team,” he says.

Will there be big hits to thrill the crowd?

|“They would love it, but I wouldn’t if it’s over the line. The best thing I can do is just play my game. I love playing aggressive but obviously within the rules.”|

Kaufusi is looking forward to seeing Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow back in the fullback position this week.

“Man, he’s lighting. I’d love to see him in open space on any day of the week. It’s exciting that he gets to go back to playing fullback. I think he can play both roles – fullback, centre – anywhere in the backs. Nothing beats Hammer out in the open … he glides,” Kaufusi says.

“I’d love to see him do 100m, timed to see how quick he is … or him and the Fox alongside to see who the fastest man in league is.”

At this stage, it looks likely that Kodi Nikorima will play five-eighth instead of Anthony Milford. That’s certainly where he trained this morning. The team will be announced tomorrow afternoon.

Head Coach Wayne Bennett will be looking for the strongest side to keep their finals hopes alive and his team is determined to make it happen.

“I think the best thing is … it’s in our hands. We’re in control of our own destiny. We’re still in the fight. Who would have thought, coming up to this game in Bundy that we’re still in the hunt? There’s that belief in the group that we need a couple of wins and get that roll going and we’re a chance of trying to squeeze in the (top) eight,” Kaufusi says.

“At the end of the day, we’re excited because it’s still in our hands and we’ve obviously got to start off this weekend.”

Kick-off is 2pm Sunday. The game will be screened on Kayo and Foxtel.

Training photo gallery (click through)

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