Having made the Wallabies squad off the Queensland bench, Hunter Paisami is happy to stay there if it’s best for the Reds in the Super Rugby AU grand final against the Brumbies.
Paisami had double reason to celebrate on the weekend. Not only did the Reds reach their first Super Rugby decider since 2011 with a 25-13 semi-final win over the Rebels, the 22-year centre was also named in an extended 44-man Wallabies squad for upcoming Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship matches.
Nerves about potential Wallabies selection meant there was no sleeping in after the Reds’ 12-point win at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
— Queensland Reds (@Reds_Rugby) September 13, 2020
“I was up at six in the morning waiting for it (the phone call),” said the uncapped Paisami, who finally got the call he was hoping for at 9am.
“I was just cleaning up the house and looking at my watch … I was a bit nervous.
“It means a lot to me … I was happy and emotional with my family, and pretty grateful.
“I didn’t expect it this early.”
Injury threatened to derail Paisami’s year after he suffered an MCL tear in his knee last month in the Reds’ regular season 19-3 home win over the Rebels.
But a better-than-expected prognosis allowed him to return – via the bench – for Queensland’s 26-7 defeat of the Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium on September 5.
Despite an impressive second-half cameo, Paisami again had to be content with a spot among the reserves in the weekend semi-final.
However, first-half injuries to centre Jordan Petaia (concussion) and winger Chris Feauai-Sautia (groin) meant Paisami played for 50 of the 80 minutes.
His impressive showing has him in the frame for a starting recall in Saturday night’s decider, even if Petaia and Feauai-Sautia both overcome their injuries.
“Hopefully those two are fine. They’re important to us,” an unselfish Paisami said.
“We want the best for our team, and coming off bench, I’ll be happy to try to do my job. Whether it’s minutes, seconds, I’ll just try to make the most of it.
“The boys are pretty pumped for this week. I’m pretty keen – I’m pumped.”
Reds hooker Brandon Paenga-Amosa, who was also named in the Wallabies squad, said Paisami’s national recognition could not be questioned.
“He’s been phenomenal,” Paenga-Amosa said.
“I’ve been there beside him watching him kill it and he’s done a really good job.
“He definitely deserves to be in the squad and he definitely deserves a shot.
“I’m excited to watch him.”
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