We ‘international rugby league is the future’ types have been getting a bit smug lately.
Hardworking former Tongan international Agnatius Paasi could be rewarded for his solid NRL form with inclusion in the Kiwis squad to travel to Denver later this month.
The 26-year-old played one Test for Tonga back in 2014 but now has his eyes firmly on a New Zealand jersey, and his claims will have been helped by the retirement of Tigers duo Ben Matulino and Russell Packer, who have both decided to put club before country.
Paasi shapes as a likely benefactor and has all the skills to make a position in the Kiwis his own.
Stephen Kearney can take a lot of credit, and not only for bringing Paasi back to New Zealand for the Warriors; he has also the six foot, 115 kilogram prop playing some good, consistent football.
Paasi is known for his offloads and general all-round skills, but Kearney has the hard-running front rower concentrating on gaining big metres, with an increased workload and leaving the flashy offloads for later in matches.
A father of four boys and a devout Christian, Paasi is a big part of the Warriors climb up the NRL ladder, and it would seem his best football is ahead of him.
As it turns out, that could also benefit the Kiwis as Michael Maguire looks to rebuild the national squad after a disastrous 2017.
Paasi played 54 first-grade matches for the Gold Coast Titans between 2015 and 2017 before rejoining the Auckland-based Warriors this season. The former Keebra Park student was also part of the victorious Warriors under-20s side in 2011, beating the North Queensland Cowboys in a 31-30 golden-point extra-time thriller.
Paasi nominated former Titans and Kangaroos players Nate Myles and Greg Bird as two players he learnt a lot from.
In 2016 Paasi was outstanding at the Auckland Nines, claiming a spot in the tournament team with a number of sensational plays that took the Titans to the semi-finals. They were beaten by the Warriors on the day, but Paasi had people noticing him for all the right reasons.
A solid 2016 season for the Titans ensued, playing all 25 games. However, Paasi broke down with injuries in 2017 and subsequently sought a release when Kearney came knocking.
The solidly built Mangere Hawks junior has not looked back and now seems certain to be given an international opportunity in Denver, Colorado, of all places, in just ten days time.