Since slipping on the Souths Jersey for his debut against the Tigers in May, Tyrell Fuimaono hasn’t looked out of place in the Red and Green of the Rabbitohs. It’s a massive achievement for a player whose goal in 2017 was to play just one game for the team.
Since Fuimaono’s promotion to Maguire’s first grade team, the Junior Kangaroo has made 12 appearance for the Rabbitohs – starting all matches except his first two. The aggressive forward also scored his first NRL try just over two weeks ago against the Canberra Raiders.
Fuimaono has been a part of what General Manager of Football Shane Richardson described as the ‘silver-lining’ of the Rabbitohs season. He’s part of a mountain of emerging talent in Angus Crichton, Campbell Graham, Cam Murray, Braidon Burns and Zane Musgrove designed to push the Club forward alongside senior players Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess, Adam Reynolds and representative star Dane Gagai.
However, if you asked Fuimaono what his contribution to the Club would have been at the start of the year, he would’ve given you a very different answer to the above.
“I was just hoping to have the opportunity to play a game. That’s what I was hoping for this year,” said Fuimaono.
“[I’m] coming to training and trying to be the best player I can. The culture at the Club, everyone is coming to training and training really hard, I just buy into that and on field kind of takes care of itself if you put the work in.
“Finally got a debut and things have gone really well for me. Thank you to the Club for giving me the opportunity and having the faith in me to put me on the field each week.”
The culture of the Rabbitohs Fuimaono speaks of is something that fellow young gun Zane Musgrove echoes as he talks about his own progression at Souths.
The 21-year old, Auckland born prop is in his second year with the Rabbitohs and has been a regular name on the team sheet, making 19 appearances throughout the year.
“I’ve been coming off the bench a lot throughout the season. I’m just looking to improve my game each week – any area of my game I can improve. I’m loving it,” said Musgrove.
“Improving my game in attack and defence, overall improve my game, that’s what I’m looking to do each week. I was coming off the bench so I’m looking at improving my stints.”
The funny side of being a young, established player in the NRL is the opportunity to face off with the players you idolized as a kid. For Musgrove, that player would have been Ben Matulino – although the Warriors front-rower will be suspended for the match due to a shoulder charge.
“I’m looking forward to it – really excited to come up against the Warriors because I’m from back home [New Zealand]. They’ve got a big forward pack and we’ll be looking to aim up,” said Musgrove
“I think playing in the middle you have to (enjoy the contact). You can’t shy away from it, it’s where it all happens in the middle. I’m looking forward to the challenge – coming up against players like Mautalino and those I used to look up to when I was young.”
Despite the fixture taking place at 6pm on a Friday, Fuimaono will have the full support of his family and friends who have followed his Rugby League debut year with glee.
“(Friends and family) they love coming to the game and getting tickets to come watch me play. Mum, my close family, they’re all stoked and over the moon happy with how I’ve gone this year.
“It makes it difficult the 6 o’clock games, people have work and other responsibilities to attend to. I guess that’s the luck of the draw, I don’t know how they set the games up, but I just focus on what I’ve got to do and don’t really buy into anything else.
After such a successful year personally and with his feet firmly in Maguire’s team, Tyrell is excited by what 2018 will bring for the Club and how he can be a part of it.
“(For 2018) I’ll be making sure I’m ready for pre-season. Coming in and buying in pre-season and getting the body fit for next year. I think that’s the same mentality of most boys and hopefully we have a strong start to the year next year.”