Bundaberg’s Antonio Kaufusi is ready to challenge Cowboys recruit Willie Mason for a starting berth this season.
Bundaberg’s Antonio Kaufusi is ready to challenge Cowboys recruit Willie Mason for a starting berth this season. Mark Kolbe

Bring it on, says Kaufusi

A LEANER Antonio Kaufusi has welcomed the prospect of fighting Willie Mason for a starting spot in Cowboys’ round one NRL blockbuster with Brisbane Broncos.

Kaufusi agreed Mason’s one-year deal with the North Queensland franchise would pose a threat, but said he was ready to prove his worth.

“I have no problem with Willie coming here,” Kaufusi said from Townsville yesterday.

“It puts everyone on notice and that’s what we’re here for, to compete amongst the best guys.”

The squad already includes big-boppers Matt Scott, Carl Webb, Luke O’Donnell and Steve Rapira, but Kaufusi is adamant he can muscle his way into the starting side.

Kaufusi has enjoyed his first full pre-season in the NRL and is in better shape than ever for tomorrow’s first trial game against the West Tigers in Mackay.

The former Brothers junior has already hit his average round one weight of 112kg with more than one month of training remaining.

“I want to get to 110kg,,” he said.

A slimmer Kaufusi will aim for longer stints and greater speed.

“I struggled to play big minutes last season but I’m feeling great right now and am really ready to show the coaching staff what I’m capable of.”

The Cowboys trial is against the Tigers this weekend, before facing the Auckland Warriors and Gold Coast Titans in the next fortnight.

“We haven’t really been told what our roles will be, but I just can’t wait to play and prove myself,” he said.

The two big units have had little to do with each other, apart from training in the Australian squad in 2006.

But they had plenty to talk about when Mason trained with the squad for the first time yesterday afternoon.

Both have represented Australia and Tonga and both are determined to prove their detractors wrong in 2010.

“I don’t know him that well, but he’s okay, a bit of a character who says what he thinks and I’m sure he’ll enjoy himself in Townsville,” Kaufusi laughed.

Mason’s first press conference after touching down in Townsville delivered exactly that.

He slammed the “fat businessmen” who were responsible for his axing from the Sydney Roosters, but pledged he would deliver his best football in a bid to revive his career.



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