LAP OF HONOUR: Antonio Kaufusi will officially mark the end of his NRL career at Sunday's grand final.
LAP OF HONOUR: Antonio Kaufusi will officially mark the end of his NRL career at Sunday's grand final. DAVE HUNT

Long goodbye: Kaufusi's career to be celebrated at NRL grand final

ANTONIO Kaufusi says it will be the perfect closure to his career when he walks out as part of the 2016 NRL retiring squad.

On Sunday, The Waves coach will go on a lap of honour to celebrate his 12-year NRL career which wrapped up last year.

Playing in 151 games, Kaufusi reached the highest level of the game, playing in two NRL grand finals and represented Queensland and Australia.

With a career as well in the Super League with three clubs, Kaufusi will go down as one of the best players Bundaberg has ever produced in rugby league.

Talking about the next few days ahead Kaufusi said he was happy to finish now.

"(It's a) good way to add a bit of closure," he said.

"Ironically I started with Melbourne and now I finish with them in the grand final."

"It is a nice touch."

Kaufusi said the decision to retire at the end of last year was out of his hands.

"Towards the end of the year with the Bulldogs we went through the medicals because my knee played up," he said.

"The best thing for it was rest and obviously for me to play I need to be running."

"That's what made my decision to retire (from the game)."

Despite not ending the way he wanted it to, Kaufusi said he had plenty of highlights he could be proud of.

"I was lucky enough to play in two grand finals, so that is pretty special," he said.

Kaufusi said other highlights included representing Queensland in 2007 and Australia in 2006.

In what will be a family affair, almost every single Kaufusi will be down to celebrate Antonio's career and see Felise in action.

With Felise named in an extended bench for the final with the Storm, Antonio said it was a big day for his family.

"The only (sibling) that isn't going is Patrick from the Cowboys," he said.

"All my siblings and my parents will be down for the day."

Unfortunately though they won't be joining him on the lap.

"The family is allowed to come down to the side," he said.

"It will just be myself and the retired players coming around."

With some of his football mates also retiring, Antonio said it would be great to catch up with them again.

"I got good mate Sam Perrett retiring with me from the Bulldogs," he said.

"Jeremy Smith is also a long time friend of mine so it will be good to catch up with all those players."

With one eye on his brother as well, Antonio has had time to talk to Felise about his big week.

He said he provided a simple message to his little brother.

"For me I remember when I played my first grand final it went quickly."

"I said 'enjoy the week and enjoy the moment'," he said.

"Regardless of whether he plays he has been a big part of their squad and their season and the family is proud of him."

Now back in Bundaberg for good as the coach of The Waves and a teacher at Shalom College, Antonio wants to remain in the game.

He said it was important to get the next juniors following in his footsteps to the top of the game.

"It has been fantastic being back here," he said.

"Being involved with Across The Waves, it has been great."

"If I can help players to create pathways through our clubs then that would be great."

The NRL retired players lap of honour will be held before the Melbourne Storm take on the Sharks at 7.15pm on Sunday.

ANTONIO KAUFUSI

Games: 151 NRL games & 77 Super League

Clubs: Melbourne Storm (78), North Queensland (33), Newcastle (33), Canterbury (7), London Broncos (56), Huddersfield (17), Bradford (4)

Tries: 19

Honours: Played for Australia and Tonga and represented Queensland in the 2007 State of Origin series. Played in the 2006 and 2008 NRL grand final defeats to Brisbane and Manly. Was a part of the Melbourne Storm team that won the 2007 title (but didn't play the grand final).



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