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Rabbitoh Fuimaono's Debut To Remember

Words: Chris Kennedy, National Correspondent‌‌, ‌‌‌NRL.com

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South Sydney debutant Tyrell Fuimaono says he teared up in a team meeting when coach Michael Maguire told him in front of his teammates he'd be making his NRL debut last week – but despite impressing many with his debut he can't remember much of it himself.

Fuimaono only joined Redfern this year after starring in the Eels NYC set-up and featuring for the Junior Kangaroos.

Following some indifferent form from South Sydney of late, coach Michael Maguire rang the changes ahead of their meeting with Wests Tigers on Friday night and one of those was calling on Fuimaono to debut and the Patrician Brothers Blacktown product didn't disappoint with 97 metres and six tackle busts.

Speaking to NRL.com after his debut, Fuimaono revealed he found out about his debut in front of all his teammtes.

"[Maguire] actually didn't pull me aside individually – we were in a team meeting and he said there was going to be a few changes in the team and he just dropped it on me so I was completely overwhelmed," Fuimaono said.

"I teared up a bit in front of everyone in the hype of it all. I was over the moon and to be able to come out and get the win on top, I couldn't be happier."

Despite a few players having to make way for the inclusion of himself plus the returns of Aaron Gray and Robbie Rochow, Fuimaono said his teammates were ecstatic for him.

"Everyone's pretty close, they were all giving me the look and saying they were happy for me and can't wait for me to be able to play with them," he said.

"I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity. It's a privilege to play alongside these guys I've looked up to for so long and it's a dream come true."

‌Fuimaono, who has been playing well for South Sydney's Intrust Super Premiership team the Bears, praised the team-first ethic of players who switch between top grade and reserve grade for building camaraderie and spirit within the club and consequently making his move up to the NRL easier.

"We've come together really good at the Bears with the full-timers jumping back and forth," he said.

"It's good with boys coming back from full-time squad to be able to do that and put everyone's egos aside is what's [helping] our success."

Of his own impressive debut, Fuimaono said it all went past in a bit of a blur.

"To be honest I kind of blanked out in the hype of it," he said.

"My goal was to bring energy to the team when I got on and try and make a bit of an impact in the game so to get the win, hopefully I did good by the boys and showed I deserved to hold a spot in the team."

‌Plenty of Eels fans will be wishing the western Sydney local was still in blue and gold following what he showed against the Tigers but Fuimaono said he decided during the middle of last year that the time had come to seek opportunities elsewhere.

"I was looking for a good stepping stone and playing opportunity. When Souths came, they've been such a massive club and having a recent premiership, I couldn't be happier with the opportunity I've been given," he said of the move.

"'Madge' (Maguire) gave me the invitation. What's kind of made it easier is all the boys have been really welcoming. I've made really good mates since I've been here at the club, they've made the transition really easy and training enjoyable.

"You don't really consider it as a job when you're coming in and having laughs, they've made me feel real welcome."

Fuiamaono's biggest challenge that came with the switch of clubs was moving out of the family home for the first time.

"I did have to move and that was a massive milestone in life. Unfortunately I had to leave my family in Mt Druitt, that was quite disappointing," he said.

"I did have the idea of bringing them with me, that was my first thought is I wanted to take them with me but at the moment I'm stepping out on my own and doing my best. I'm grateful enough to be given the opportunity and hopefully I do well."