On Sunday, former Auckland schoolboy Hunter Paisami will make his test debut for the Wallabies just over a year after he was sleeping in is agents office. Studying Mangere College, Paisami played for the Blues youth sides before he and his family move to Melbourne when he was 17.
His rugby journey from there has been an interesting one as he was brought into the Melbourne Rebels' wider squad. However, his dream of playing top-level rugby looked to be hanging in the balance as he failed to secure a long term deal with the Rebels.
Paisami packed his bags and moved into his agent’s office in Brisbane where he turned out for club side Brisbane Wests in 2019 and was called into the Brisbane City squad for the NRC.
“I was a bit ashamed. I was a bit lost at the start when I lost my contract with the Rebels,” Paisami told rugby.com.au.
“I made the move here with no family, didn’t know anywhere. Had to restart all over again.
“Early on, when I first moved in, I almost gave up after a couple of weeks, I was just going to go home.
“I had no car, nowhere to stay, I stayed at Kangaroo Point at my agent’s, but it just didn’t feel like home, it just felt like I was being punished.”
Paisami returned to Melbourne for the festive season and was ready to throw in the towel.
“I went back for Christmas after a mini pre-season with Wests, had a sit down with my parents and, I don’t know, I just thought about it and how bad I wanted it,” Paisami says.
“I just decided to back myself and hopefully play a good season with Wests.
This worked for the youngster as his form led to a NRC call up for Brisbane City in 2019 before a Reds contract came in 2020.
Injuries helped him break into the Reds squad as he made his debut in 2020 and by the end of the 2020 Super Rugby AU season he was a regular starter and a standout performer for the side as they reached the final of the competition.
He has once again benefitted from an injury to Jordan Petaia as he starts on his debut at outside centre against the All Blacks but take nothing away from the centre who is likely to make a huge impact in more ways than one.
The 22-year-old is extremely abrasive on both sides of the ball. Before making his Super Rugby debut for the Reds, he managed to break former Junior Wallaby captain and now fellow uncapped Wallaby Fraser McReight's hand in a brutal collision while he also disloacted Jordan Petaia's shoulder in a Reds training session.
The defensive duties of a test outside centre in the modern game is one of the most testing and Paisami has shown glimpses of what he is capable of. During a NRC game for Brisbane City in 2019, he made this crucial tackle against the Melbourne Rising, his former side, in City's 24-21 victory over the side.
While he has also made it a habit of smashing opposition players backwards for the Reds with the Waratahs' James Ramm one of the many victims of a Paisami hit during Super Rugby AU.
Paisami is not just a defensive centre as he has played a key role for the Reds this year as the side became of the better attacking sides in Australia.
He carries the ball strongly to the line and is difficult to bring down. He also runs some neat lines and links up well with his fellow backs.
Jordan Petaia is viewed as the future of the Wallabies midfield but with the youngster spending plenty of time on the sidelines with injuries, Hunter Paisami seize his opportunity with both hands and cement himself as a regular test starter for the Wallabies.