Improving Red gets Super recognition
By Jay Buchan
SINCE making his Queensland debut last month, Riverview's Tasi Luafutu has clashed with some of the toughest rugby players in the world and given as good as he's got.
That's why he has been named The Queensland Times sports star of the month for March.
He joins hockey player Tim Bates and weightlifter Deb Lovely as this year's sports star winners.
After making his starting debut against South Africa's Bulls, the back rower has been used as an impact player off the bench, throwing his 110kg frame around like an angry rhino.
Last weekend Luafutu got 45 minutes of game time against the Chiefs in Waikato, New Zealand, following an injury to John Roe.
While the Reds lost the game they won plenty of admirers for the way they took it to the form team of the competition.
"We started off pretty poorly," Luafutu said.
"We had our opportunities and dominated possession, but just took some wrong options.
"We'll learn from that."
Luafutu has now played for Queensland in both South Africa and New Zealand.
He rated Friday's game as tough as any he's played.
"The speed of the game was definitely quicker (than in South Africa) and the physicality was pretty much up there with any game I've played," he said.
Luafutu may find himself in the starting line-up for Friday's game against the Blues at Suncorp Stadium, with Roe under an injury cloud.
If not he will be happy continuing his role as super sub.
"It is everyone's aspiration to start, but just to get on the field for me is a bonus," Luafutu said.
He is confident the young Reds team has the makings of something special.
"There is a strong feeling in the group at the moment. A lot of young blokes are around the same age and we get on well together," he said.
"There is definitely a culture there that is growing."
Luafutu's family has played a big role throughout his career and he will be well represented in the stands on Friday.
With two brothers, five sisters and more nieces and nephews than he can count there will be no lack of support. Luafutu is one of the success stories to come from Ipswich, yet he knows how difficult it is for rugby to make an impression in such a rugby league stronghold.
"There are clubs around that are fighting hard, like the Riverview and Districts club I played for," he said.
"It is always hard to get players into union but the opportunities are still there."
While Luafutu doesn't yet get recognised when walking down the street, that may well change as he continues to make an impression for Queensland.
If it does you just may find a few more Ipswich juniors keen to play rugby.