Ballymore Beat: Hunter Paisami...The Demolition Man With Frills

Thu, May 2, 2024, 10:00 PM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Hunter Paisami of the Reds in action during the round 10 Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and Blues at Suncorp Stadium, on April 27
Hunter Paisami of the Reds in action during the round 10 Super Rugby Pacific match between Queensland Reds and Blues at Suncorp Stadium, on April 27

When Hunter Paisami first landed in Queensland his game was much like his work as a demolition man smashing concrete with a jackhammer.

If there were frills to his game, they were well disguised. His game was based on blunt force because he tucked the ball under his arm, ran hard and skittled defenders. His tackling had the same direct, physical edge.

As he heads to Christchurch for his 50th game as a Reds player on Saturday, he is a poster boy for what diligent development of one’s game can do.

In the five years since he arrived at the Wests Bulldogs in Brisbane, Paisami has transformed his game to possess the range of skills of all top centres.

Eavesdrop on any conversation about the 2024 Reds and you’re now just as likely to hear “What about that little chip kick?” or “Good hands” when referencing Paisami.

He still does the heavy lifting of getting over the gainline to get the Reds rolling forward and is in the top bracket for dominant tackles across the whole of Super Rugby Pacific.

If the Reds are to succeed in Christchurch against the Crusaders on Saturday, Paisami will be a big part of any script.

“We’re going to Crusaders-land and I think he’s going to be an important player there,” Reds coach Les Kiss said.

Against the Blues in last weekend’s classic at Suncorp Stadium, it was Paisami’s deft chip-kick-and-regather that put Tim Ryan away over 50m for the first try of his hat-trick.

“He tells me he can goal-kick, drop kick as well. He tells me he can do everything,” Kiss added with a grin.

“Hunter hasn’t stopped surprising me I guess. He’s a professional. He’s a joy to have around the place.

“He still does that first job as a No.12 by creating that quick ball on the gainline (off a strong run). He can be that target player or a genuine second five-eighth.

“His kicking game has been exceptional.

“I don’t think it’s a revelation. It’s always been there. It’s just the style of rugby you play can open it up.”

That’s true but it’s also been a progression. Paisami himself greatly admires how All Blacks great Ma’a Nonu added so many pieces to his game.

The cutout pass, the clever kicks, little variations and so on were all shades added to a direct core game by Nonu.

Paisami’s settled life in Brisbane has made it easier for the Samoan-born centre to build his career because he certainly didn’t arrive that way.

His club Wests backed a little-known footballer from Melbourne whose career was in limbo, paid some bills for him and found him a job on the tools.

“A big part of where I am is thanks to Wests. I’m still grateful because, at a very difficult stage with no way to pay legal fees, the club supported me,” Paisami said in the book Bulldog! Bulldog! 70 Years Of Wests Rugby.

“I was on the tools smashing walls, things like that, with other mates from the club (in 2019).

It was good fun (doing the office strip-outs).”

Paisami stepped up six times in his first 15 Tests against the All Blacks. He’s playing his 50th game for the Reds on Saturday.

Not bad for a centre who was told in Melbourne he wouldn't make it as a Super Rugby player. Kiss is delighted to have him at the Reds.

“He’s been on fire. He’s happy here for sure and really focussed on the team finishing the season strongly,” Kiss said.

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