Derby-day display is confidence booster for Leeds Rhinos’ David Fusitu’a

STAR SIGNING David Fusitu’a is pleased to have ticked off two ‘firsts’ with his new club – bagging a maiden Betfred Super League try as Leeds Rhinos broke their duck for 2022.

By Peter Smith
Monday, 7th March 2022, 6:00 am

Fusitu’a made his debut in Rhinos’ Betfred Super League round one defeat by Warrington Wolves, but was concussed in the opening period and substituted at half-time.

Under the RFL’s head injury protocols, he had to miss the next game and Rhinos gave him another week after that to get back to full fitness.

The Tonga – and former New Zealand – Test star made a quick impact on his return, scoring Rhinos’ opening try just three minutes into the 34-18 win at Wakefield Trinity.

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Leeds Rhinos' David Fusitu'a barges his way over for a try against Wakefield Trinity last week. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

He also got through the game unscathed and admitted that was mission accomplished on all counts.

“It was my first 80 minutes in a little while so the body is a little bit sore, but I was happy to come away with the win and it was something to build on,” he reflected.

Fusitu’a, the NRL’s top try scorer in 2018, during his time at New Zealand Warriors, was pleased to get off the mark in Super League.

He squeezed over at the corner from a pass by his centre Harry Newman, providing a glimpse of what Rhinos hope will become a familiar sight this year.

David Fusitu'a celebrates with Kruise Leeming after scoring against Wakefield. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“It was a good little confidence boost,” he said.

“It wasn’t the best conditions out there, but that’s footy; you just get on with it.

“I thought the boys did well to take it to them.

“We know they are a solid team at their home ground so to get the win was good.”

Rhinos stormed into a 30-0 lead before Trinity steadied their ship in the second half.

Fusitu’a felt the visitors showed the style of rugby they are capable of in the opening 40 minutes, despite heavy rain.

“That was the gameplan from the coaches and the staff,” he said.

“It was really pleasing the way the boys responded and we’ll put that one to bed now and go again this week.

“You always have more fun when you are winning so it was good to get that one ticked off and we can look forward to Thursday.”

The game at Wakefield was Fusitu’a first taste of traditional English conditions and he reckons “it is maybe going to take a bit of time to get used to”.

But he insisted: “Once you are out there you don’t really take much notice how cold it is, you’ve got the adrenaline running. You just go out and do your thing.”

After missing much of last season through injury, the early-season layoff at his new club was frustrating for Fusitu’a.

“It’s not ideal,” he conceded. “But I looked at the positives and what I could do to get back on the field as fast as possible, obviously making it safe for myself to be back on there.

“I was glad to be back out there with the team. Obviously we hadn’t got the results we wanted the last few weeks, but it [Thursday’s win] was a good kick-start for us.”

Players who fail a head injury assessment now face a mandatory 11-day stand down and Fusitu’a feels that is the right approach.

“One thing I always think about is you only have one brain and one head,” he added.

“If you break an arm it will heal, but there’s so many things about the brain we don’t know, I think it’s important we look after boys who have concussions and things like that.”

Rhinos’ reserves were beaten 32-10 at St Helens on Saturday. After Saints led 12-0, Rhinos replied with a try by Will Gatus, which Jack Sinfield converted, but the hosts led 18-6 at half-time and were 32-4 ahead before a late consolation score for Bailey Aldridge.

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