Weighing in at 91kg, one wouldn’t know that 21-year-old rookie Hunter Paisami is 14 kilograms lighter than former Reds enforcer Samu Kerevi.
With only five Super Rugby caps under his belt, Paisami has single-handedly taken on a new role as Queensland’s hard-running 13. In a backline with no shortage of skill, surrounded by the playmaking abilities of James O’Connor along with Hamish Stewart’s bold defence, Paisami finishes off a recipe for disaster towards opposition backlines and fatigued forwards.
Showcased in his debut Reds start against the Sunwolves, Paisami inflicted pain against the Barbarian-like backline, shining bright in a Reds performance that was near perfect.
Running 70 metres compiled of straight and hard lines, Paisami bumped and bruised off eight defenders, threatening the defensive line with every carry.
Supported by the swift service of Tate McDermott, a youthful, electric scrumhalf making coach Dave Rennie dribble with the thought of ‘what could be’; Paisami thrived off both the early long ball dished out by O’Connor and the short delayed bullet from Stewart.
In the head-to-head battle, the Auckland-raised young gun made Sunwolves JJ Engelbrecht look like the Super Rugby amateur. Paisami made five more carries, didn’t allow Engelbrecht to run over him once and looked at home with a flying Speight by his side.
His spectacular try aided by the vision of McDermott, highlighted his ability to read the defensive line and draw out tired forwards. While he may not have the imposing size of his former counterpart Kerevi, Paisami makes up for it with his speed and acceleration.
For the one-time Rebels rookie to shine, Paisami needs to be given the sole instruction to pin his ears back and run hard, angled lines; challenging the tackling abilities of opposition five-eights and inside centres.
Getting his hands on the ball will be no problem with Stewart by his side; a Matt Giteau-like centre who is a master of the pass and a wall in defence.
While the Reds backline may still be considered young; the void has been filled for Jordan Petaia, as long as Paisami maintains his discipline and ball security.
With ball in two hands and no shortage of support players, Paisami will continue to shine and grow as the Reds new hard runner, short in stature though strong in his stride.