Big future for Vikings’ prop
From Porirua to Penrith
Tyson Fuimaono prefers to do his talking on the field, among the big hits and hit-ups.
The unassuming Waitangirua 17-year-old will make a permanent move to Sydney this week to take up a contract with the Penrith Panthers NRL club. He will join their youth set up. Finishing his schooling will also be a priority.
Fuimaono has followed the expected route to achieve his rugby league dream; a Porirua Vikings junior, an NRL trial with the Melbourne Storm in 2009, national elite camp in 2011 and member of the junior Wellington Orcas from 2009-2011.
He is also a national representative in tag football.
The Panthers came calling for the 1.93m prop in January and he went to Australia for three weeks to check out their facilities and play trial matches.
Proud mum Diana says ‘‘he was definitely noted and noticed’’ with some eye-catching performances.
‘‘It was cool, I really enjoyed being over there, training and playing,’’ says Fuimaono. ‘‘We got to watch the seniors train. That was a shock to see [the intensity].’’
Although Penrith wanted him signed straight away, his education at Tawa College was the family’s priority. But an improved contract was emailed last month, with airfares, schooling, accommodation and other essentials firmed up. So off he goes, with the blessing of his parents.
‘‘I’m not nervous. This is a huge opportunity and I just want to take the chance I’ve been given,’’ says Fuimaono. ‘‘We’ll be straight into it. Games start pretty soon and I just want to get out on the field. I love it, being part of a team and doing my job, making the runs and big tackles.’’
Fuimaono will play in the SG Ball competition, a league in New South Wales for under-18 players. His dream is to play in the NRL and go one step further, wearing the blue for NSW in State of Origin. He is eligible as he was born in Australia.
His mother says it will be sad to see him leave home, but this is his future. ‘‘We just want him to go for it.’’ She says it was vital he finished his schooling, so that if a career in footy did not pan out, his backup plan to be a policeman might be realised.
Fuimaono wanted to thank immediate and extended family, coaches at the Vikings and Orcas, and Wellington league identity Pat Knox, for helping him reach his goals.
Tyson Fuimaono has done his apprenticeship in rugby league on this side of the Tasman; now it’s time for the big prop to prove himself in Australia.