READY TO GO: Bundy's Felise Kaufusi  wears Maroons gear   sponsored by Bundaberg-based Auswide Bank.
READY TO GO: Bundy's Felise Kaufusi wears Maroons gear sponsored by Bundaberg-based Auswide Bank. Bradley Kanaris

Bundy raised but born to play FNQ

RUGBY LEAGUE: Queensland Maroons back-rower Felise Kaufusi will tonight step onto Suncorp Stadium for his fourth State of Origin clash but the rampaging Melbourne Storm forward took his first steps towards Queensland rugby league's highest honour on a field in the Far North.

The year was 2013, when a 21-year-old Kaufusi was in his inaugural first-grade season with the North Queensland Cowboys.

Kaufusi, who was raised in the Rum City but born in Auckland, had previously played for the club's National Youth Competition side from 2010-12.

For the 2013 season, the versatile edge forward was allocated to Cowboys Queensland Cup feeder club the Northern Pride.

He spent most of the season with the state league side while trying to crack into the Cowboys' starting 17.

He played 23 matches for the Pride, including two trials and two finals appearances that year.

Former Maroons flyer and Pride 2013 captain and current coach Ty Williams said while Kaufusi displayed potential as a 21-year-old, he still had a long way to go to get to where he was now.

"I think the biggest thing with Fus back then was that he really struggled during those periods to pump out long minutes,” he said.

"The following year he went down to Melbourne and he's obviously worked very hard on his motor and his fitness components since.

"Now he's a genuine back-rower that plays 80 minutes week-in, week-out and is an Australian and Queensland rep player, which is pretty awesome to see.”

Kaufusi made his Origin debut in Game I last year and went on to cement a starting spot on the Maroons' left edge, where he will again line up tonight.

Williams said the way the Storm edge forward played the game suited the Origin arena.

"The physicality he plays with is probably his biggest attribute,” he said.

"He enjoys the contest and he's a guy that's consistently in the battle, or in the moment, for the full 80 minutes.

"You know that whenever you're going against him, it's going to be a handful and he's going to compete for everything.”

Williams, who played three games for the Maroons in the 2005 series, said this year's young side had him fired up for the 2019 series.

Despite the lack of "old heads” taking the field, he says the Maroons can score a victory in tonight's series opener.

Check out our Origin

liftout in today's paper