An older brother. A proven record. These are the main reasons Patrick Kaufusi left his good mates at the North Queensland Cowboys to travel to the other end of the country and sign with the Melbourne Storm.
Like the stories of other brothers who end up at the same club – think Brett and Glenn Stewart, Josh and Brett Morris, Tom and Jake Trbojevic, Jesse and Kenny Bromwich – Patrick and Felise Kaufusi are finally playing together again after initially linking at the Cowboys.
“It was big,” Patrick told NRL.com of the part Felise played in recruiting his younger sibling. “It would be awesome to play with him again – we played a couple of [under] 20s games together. It’d be great for that opportunity to learn off him again. He’s come a long way since leaving the Cows.”
He has indeed. Felise was part of the Storm’s premiership-winning team and his form in 2017 earned him a spot in Mal Meninga’s Kangaroos squad, where he earned his maiden Test cap against France in the World Cup pool games.
Patrick, 23, puts a lot of his brother’s success to the Storm’s system.
“He felt he could get a better opportunity down in Melbourne. As players you don’t have long in the comp so he just wanted to grab what he saw as the best place to get the best opportunity,” said Patrick, who hopes the same magic dust at Melbourne gets sprinkled on him.
The prop played just 22 games in nearly three years with the Cowboys – a torn toe ligament playing with Felise in Tonga’s Pacific Cup win over Fiji at Campbelltown Stadium in May ended his NRL season after nine games.
“I really want to break into the first-grade squad,” Patrick said. “They’ve got a premiership team – they’ve just come off the back of winning that again. So it will be hard, but I’ll put my best foot forward for that.
“I want to learn off all the players like Cam Smith and Jesse Bromwich. I had a good opportunity up in Townsville with Matt Scott and Jason [Taumalolo]. So, I’ve got more players to learn from. I want to learn as much as I can and take my game to the next level. They’ve got the staff and coaches to help me do that.”
Patrick was well on the way under his own steam. Queensland coach Kevin Walters earmarked him a future Maroon by throwing his name into the selection mix before Origin I. But then he suffered the foot injury that ended up being far worse than first thought. He ripped the tendon in his big toe which holds all the five toes together allowing you to walk.
“Originally they thought it would be six weeks. But we got scans the doctor said I’d be out for the rest of the season. So I had screws in there for 12 weeks while it mended back together. So far so good. I’m still in rehab at the moment,” Patrick said, from the Storm’s HQ at AAMI Park.
“I’m trying to get back with the main group. I’ll be back running in a couple of weeks and hope to play trials and be ready for round one. That’s the main goal. I didn’t come down here to spend any longer than I have to away from football. If it doesn’t come for round one, I’ll keep putting everything into each week until I get that start.
“It was the worst injury. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I tore my pec in my first NRL season but this one was far worse.”
It robbed the Kaufusi brothers, who are just 21 months apart, the chance of playing against each other in the NRL grand final.
“I honestly thought ‘What did I do wrong?’. Then again we had injuries left, right and centre at the Cowboys,” Patrick said. “But everything happens for a reason so I don’t think about it too much anymore.”
Regardless, the Kaufusi dynasty continues in the purple jerseys. Eldest brother Antonio played 78 games for Storm before leaving in 2009 to join the Cowboys.
Now his two younger brothers are reunited and Patrick can’t help thinking that’s going to aid his football.
“I’ve always looked up to my older brothers. So, if on the field if I see them beside me I don’t want to let them down. I’d put that extra effort in. I think it will play a big part,” Patrick said.
“Felise is always trying to help me with everything. Even when I was up there [at the Cowboys] he’d call me before and after games. Now I’m down here he’s helping me with lots of things already. He’s always looking out for me. I really appreciate having him in my life.”