David Fusitu'a profile: Leeds Rhinos' new signing in focus

Speed and class - that’s what Test three-quarter David Fusitu’a will bring to Leeds Rhinos over the next two seasons, according to club chief executive Gary Hetherington.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 6:00 am

Rhinos have a tradition of quality wingers, both home-grown and imported from the southern hemisphere.

And in Fusitu’a, who has been signed from New Zealand Warriors on a two-year contract, Rhinos have made another addition with the potential to become a huge fans’ favourite.

Leeds’ only recruit from the NRL ahead of the 2022 season, he completes their overseas contingent, which was a surprise given their stated desire to bring in a middle-forward.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

David Fusitu'a takes a high ball for Warriors. Picture by David Neilson/ www.photosport.nz/SWpix.com.

But it is not difficult to see why Rhinos have opted to use their final quota spot on Fusitu’a, given his track record.

Born in Auckland, Fusitu’a played his junior rugby for the local Marist Saints side, whose old boys also include current Wakefield Trinity duo Bill Tupou and Mason Lino, plus ex-Rhinos back Tui Lolohea.

Having been capped by New Zealand under-18s and the Junior Kiwis, he made his NRL debut for New Zealand Warriors in 2014.

When he was released from the final two seasons of his contract earlier this year, in order to join Leeds, he was the club’s longest-serving player, having scored 61 tries in 101 NRL matches.

Most notably, he was the competition’s top try scorer in 2018, crossing 23 times in as many appearances.

That included two hat-tricks and he bagged a brace of tries five times.

His feats that season earned him a new five-year contract and came after he had scored 12 tries in 24 games the previous term and 11 from 18 matches in 2016, but his club career has stalled over the past couple of campaigns.

Fusitu’a played only seven times in the Covid-hit 2020 season, when the Warriors had to base themselves in Australia, but that was two games more than he managed this year.

His five appearances in 2021 came in succession at the start of the season, but he was sidelined by a hamstring injury and remained on the casualty list until August, when he played a couple of comeback matches for Redcliffe Dolphins in the second-tier Queensland Cup.

At international level, Fusitu’a has featured - for different teams - in some of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history. Having played for Tonga earlier in that year, he made his New Zealand debut against Scotland during the 2016 Four Nations competition, scoring two tries as - against the odds - the Kiwis were held to an 18-18 draw.

Fusitu’a also featured for the Kiwis in the final at Anfield, in Liverpool, where they were crushed 34-8 by Australia.

He defected back to Tonga the following year and, playing outside Konrad Hurrell - whose departure to St Helens helped open a space in Rhinos’ squad for next term - scored a hat-trick against his former Test side in a shock 28-22 win at the 2017 World Cup.

Tonga went on to reach the semi-finals before being eliminated by England.

Fusitua’s five tries in four appearances made him Tonga’s top try scorer at the tournament and joint fourth overall.

Two years later, Fusitu’a - alongside Hurrell and Lolohea - was a member of the Tonga Invitational side which stunned the Aussies 16-12 to record the greatest result in that nation’s history.

In total, at international level Fusitu’a has scored two tries in as many games for New Zealand and made nine appearances for Tonga, touching down five times.

While the past two seasons have not been kind to him, that means he arrives at Leeds with a point to prove.

The switch to Betfred Super League is an opportunity to rebuild his career and love for the game, while still at a relatively young age.

Known for his strength and finishing power, Fusitu’a is capable of scoring spectacular touchdowns and will hope to benefit from the expansive game Rhinos aim to play next year.

He also has explosive pace and, coupled with Ash Handley - who was Super League’s top try scorer in 2020 - Rhinos now have formidable strike power on both flanks.

He can also play at centre, but his arrival could mean Tom Briscoe taking that role on a more permanent basis next season.

Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.