David Fusitu'a interview: Leeds Rhinos signing reflects on move to Super League from NRL club New Zealand Warriors

Star signing David Fusitu’a has outlined his reasons for joining Leeds Rhinos, initial impressions of the club and squad and hopes for a successful stay in Betfred Super League.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 9th January 2022, 2:06 pm

The 27-year-old winger - who has travelled to England with wife Eden and one-year-old daughter Jordan - was the last of Rhinos’ four 2022 recruits to join the club and the only one brought in from overseas.

Born in Auckland, he made his debut for New Zealand Warriors in 2014 and had spent his entire career there before signing for Leeds.

Capped by both the Kiwis and Tonga, he was the NRL ‘s top try scorer in 2018, with 23 in as many appearances. In total, he touched down 61 tries in 101 NRL matches, scoring two hat-tricks a brace of tries five times, but played only 12 games during his final two seasons there.

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David Fusitu'a 'can't wait' to play at Headingley. Picture by Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos via SWpix.com.

Having joined Leeds on a two-year contract, Fusitu’a - who was limited to five NRL appearances last term because of a hamstring injury - admitted: “It is definitely a big change for not only me, but my family.”

He said: “I was at the Warriors for pretty much my whole career up until now so it wasn’t a decision I took lightly, but I was excited when we made the decision to come over and get to see this part of the world, meet new people and give Super League a crack.

“I like the way Super League is played, the expansive kind of game that’s played over here and I’ve got a few good mates who play here, for different teams.

“That’s what made the decision a little bit easier, knowing I had mates over here already - and my wife is really close with their partners as well.”

David Fusitu'a has joined Leeds from New Zealand Warriors on a two-year contract. Picture by Phil Daly/Leeds Rhinos via SWpix.com.

Those friends include Wakefield Trinity’s Mason Lino, ex-Leeds stand-off Tui Lolohea, now with Huddersfield Giants, Albert Vete at Hull KR and Leigh Centurions’ Ata Hingano.

He said: “I’ve got a few ex-teammates who play at Hull FC as well, so it’s good to have people I know over here.

“I’ve been able to catch up with them and draw on their experience of how they’ve found it over here.

“I have heard nothing but good things and I am looking forward to experiencing it myself.”

Rhinos signing David Fusitu'a on the charge for Tonga against Austrlia in 2018. Picture by Andrew Cornaga/www.photosport.nz/Photosport Ltd 2018.

After so long at New Zealand Warriors, Fusitu’a insisted he was ready for a fresh start.

“I just think it was time for a change for me,” he added.

“I feel like this new adventure will refresh me and keep me on my toes.

“It is a good change for my career, but also a lifestyle change, just to shake things up a bit.

“We are enjoying it, it has been cool to see new places and meet new people.”

Fusitu’a arrived in England last month and saw his new side beat Wakefield in their opening pre-season game on Boxing Day.

“It was awesome and it wasn’t even at full capacity,” he said of the Headingley atmosphere.

“Being able to see the fans and the music, the singing and the drums and stuff, it was a cool experience.

“It’s something I am looking to experience once I run out there.

“It is a bit different to the crowds you get back in the NRL, but a good different in my opinion.

“It is going to be cool to see that. I have heard nothing but good things about Headingley, everybody says it’s the best stadium in Super League.”

Assessing Rhinos’ squad, Fusitu’a noted: “There’s a good mix of older heads and experienced players, along with a bunch of young kids coming through.

“The talent is definitely there, it is cool to see how the young boys are progressing and get a feel of how the club works.

“I definitely feel like we have got a good squad and we’re hoping to do some good things this year.”

Rhinos have four more pre-season games - against Featherstone Rovers, Bradford Bulls, Hull and Hunslet and Fusitu’a confirmed: “I’ll definitely be playing in one, I am not sure which yet.

“I am looking forward to it, it is exciting - I can’t wait to pull on a Leeds jersey.

“Being my first time away from the Warriors it is an uncharted area for me, but I am keen to get back on the field and play some footy.”

Like most imports from the NRL, Fusitu’a is still adapting to the English weather, but insisted his welcome has been warm.

“The boys have been real welcoming and they’ve been looking after me,” he reflected. “It has been awesome.

“I’ve done a little bit [of training], just the team stuff.

“I have done bits and pieces, just getting to know the boys, not only off the field, but also how everyone plays and trying to work on combinations and stuff.

“Obviously it is a bit colder than it is back in Australia and New Zealand, but we’re hoping to get used to it, so it has been good.”

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