Wallabies star says no to international offers
SPOTLIGHT: Hunter Paisami has resisted domestic and international offers to re-sign with the Queensland Reds and hopes to return from a knee injury in what looms as a crunch final-round Super Rugby fixture.
The 24-Test Wallabies centre confirmed his short-term future on Wednesday after signing a one-year extension to remain with Rugby Australia and at Ballymore next season.
That’s despite interest from Australian Super Rugby rivals and abroad and the fact the Reds’ search to replace departing coach Brad Thorn is ongoing.
“I thought about what’s best for me and my young family, it’s best to stay here,” he said, while also thanking Thorn for taking a chance on him.
Paisami was cut by the Melbourne Rebels but revived his career in Brisbane club rugby, forcing his way into the Reds’ side then debuting for Australia in the same year.
One of a host of contenders to wear the 12 or 13 jersey at this year’s World Cup, he’s had a “three to five minute” phone chat with new Wallabies coach Eddie Jones.
“It was straight to the point,” he said.
“Just a check up … he gave me two things to work on, things to keep doing and that was it.
“I’m not looking ahead to that [World Cup] yet … if the opportunity comes I’ll be grateful.”
A fit-again Samu Kerevi shapes as an obvious selection at No.12 but beyond that there’s a long list of Australian-based centres queuing up for their shot.
Jones said the 25-year-old was “a young player that is still learning and growing”.
“He can play 12 or 13, and has the potential to be a really valuable centre in the years ahead – I hope he can get back from his injury and work on continuing that trajectory.”
The tough-as-nails talent hasn’t played since a knee injury in round five but is back running and could feature in Fiji against the Drua on June 3.
The Reds are sixth but likely need a win against the imposing Blues on Friday in Brisbane, away to the Highlanders next week or in Fiji to ensure a finals berth.
They’ll welcome back Josh Flook (quad) in the No.13 but have lost James O’Connor (concussion) in a blow after his season-best performance at inside centre in their historic defeat of the Chiefs last Friday.
Taj Annan will replace him in the No.12 while Harry Wilson remains on the bench with in-form hooker Matt Faessler and Ryan Smith in a ploy that paid dividends in New Plymouth last week.