Kaufusi England bound
FORMER Bundaberg Rugby League junior Antonio Kaufusi has returned to his hometown as he prepares for his debut in the United Kingdom's Super League.
The Tongan-born prop has taken a three-year contract with London Harlequins bringing to an end a successful NRL career featuring Australian and State of Origin representative honours.
Speaking from his family's East Bundaberg home yesterday, Kaufusi said he considered his options abroad as new Newcastle Knights coach Wayne Bennett took a broom to the team.
"Ideally I would have loved to play one more year but Wayne Bennett came down and pretty much cleaned the whole team out," he said.
"I'm proud of what I've achieved in my career and now it's time to try something different."
Kaufusi made his NRL debut with Melbourne Storm in 2003 at the age of 18 and starred in two grand finals in his five-year tenure.
The hulking prop also served in the North Queensland Cowboys and Newcastle Knights forward pack over a 144-game career.
His path into the NRL was navigated by chance when he moved to Bundaberg at the age of 14 and approached Brothers Sports Club to play football.
He had previously played rugby union for Marist St Patrick's in Point England, New Zealand.
Kaufusi mistakenly believed he had signed on to play rugby union and wrote down his preferred position as lock.
"I didn't really figure it out until we got out on the field for training and started doing drills," he said.
"I thought, 'Hang on a minute this isn't union, this is league'."
Kaufusi will move to London in December with his wife Bree and daughters Pelenatita and Khloe.
He said the London Harlequins deal provided him with security and an opportunity to see another part of the world while playing the game he loved.
"I still had a year on my contract to play out, but if someone offers you three you've got to take it," he said.
It's undecided whether he will take his white Maltese Shitsu-cross dog, Bundy - which was named after his adopted hometown - with the family to England
Kaufusi said the companion had attracted jests from his teammates during his time with the Melbourne Storm.
"All the boys used to give me a lot of crap about Bundy," he said.
"I'm this really big bloke and then I've got this tiny little dog - I think they must have pictured me with a rottweiler or something."