Kaufusi lands first senior title with A-grade win
THE rugby league career of former NRL player Antonio Kaufusi could have come to the perfect end on Saturday night.
The Waves coach and player helped guide the club to its first Bundaberg Rugby League A-grade title since 2007 in a 23-20 win over the Wallaroos.
Kaufusi landed his first title as a senior player as well after missing out on one during his NRL career with four clubs and English Super League career with two clubs.
He lost both the 2006 and 2008 NRL deciders to Brisbane and Manly.
Not one to focus on himself, Kaufusi said it was great to win but praised the club for getting there.
"It's never been about me but it's always been about this great club and building something, which was really important when I came in,” he said.
"I just can't be happier for the players but as a club as a whole everyone contributed and this is what it is all about.”
The Waves had to do it the tough way.
The side was down 8-0 early to the Maryborough-based club before fending off the Wallaroos in the final 20 minutes when The Waves led 22-16.
A field goal from Tigers half Tyrell Howard sealed the title with two minutes to go.
Kaufusi said the focus when the club was down was to fight back.
"We just had to be in a grind,” he said.
"I think with any kind of footy if we just competed we'd give ourselves a chance.
"We made it tough in the end but now no one can take this away from us ever.”
Kaufusi took over as club coach in 2016, a few months after he retired from the NRL with the Canterbury Bulldogs.
He said the challenge to get them from bottom to top had been unreal but revealed it was not just him that deserved credit for getting the side to the top.
"There's a lot of people I can't name that have been involved in this club and deserve praise,” he said.
"They do the tough jobs, we do the easy jobs on the field.”
Kaufusi also didn't give confirmation as to his plans next year.
He is expected to coach the side again but his playing days could be over.
The prop lasted around 50 minutes in the final before his calf injury, which forced him to retire from the NRL, flared up and forced him from the field.
He said a decision on his future would come in the next few weeks as he hadn't made up his mind just yet.
There is more on the victory by The Waves Tigers in the NewsMail on Monday.