Iggy's family reunion
For most of the Aquis Titans squad this week the round 17 bye meant a time to get away, freshen up and address the last nine rounds as a period of some urgency now as the team sits outside the top eight.
While the fit members of the squad zipped up their kit bags after training on Tuesday and don’t return until Monday, the many in the rehab squad have been sweating it out to ensure they are in good shape for a return – several of them hopefully against the Sea Eagles on Monday week.
For Agnatius ‘Iggy’ Passi, this week meant something different altogether.
After being signed for a one-year deal after leaving his Auckland home playing for his career on a train-and-trial contract, he has remained apart from his partner Chloe and three-year-old son Manatoa since he arrived last November.
Chloe remained in Auckland to finish her university studies (she wants to be a history school teacher) and Agnatius has had just two trips back home, a two-week break over Christmas and during a bye weekend.
They have had to rely on the nightly Viber video chats, during which he reads Manatoa a bedtime story, to keep in touch.
But on Tuesday night Chloe, Agnatius and Manatoa had an emotional reunion at Brisbane airport and the next five days will be spent spending time in the decidedly warmer climate of the Gold Coast before he returns to training.
Chloe finished her university course last week and will remain here for a month before heading home to have their second son, due in September, surrounded by family in Auckland.
By that stage, Agnatius hopes to have extended his commitment to the Aquis Titans with the club and management close to agreeing a new deal after he has impressed during his nine NRL appearances either side of a month’s absence because of a foot injury.
Paasi’s best performance was against the big-name Roosters pack last Sunday. He rattled the cage of fellow Kiwi Jared Waerea-Hargreaves a couple of times and played 80 minutes for the first time in the NRL.
After natural hurdles of homesickness, the injury and acclimatising to the tough training under hotter conditions that his hometown, he spent this week content – on and off the field.
“It’s been a bit hard obviously not having them here; it’s always in the back of my mind,” said Paasi, who was born in Tonga but spent most of his upbringing in Auckland, where he won an under-20s premiership with the Warriors in 2011.
“But I have to play well week in and week out because I am playing them; for my son’s future. I Viber every night and tell him a story, something at the top of my head because I don’t have books with me.
“It’s going to be so good to have them here for a month, a do things with them.
“Hopefully I can stay longer with the Titans and they can come back over for the start of training later in the year.”
Coach Neil Henry is extremely happy with Paasi’s progress in recent weeks.
“He’s a real positive story, earning his place in the team after coming here with no guarantees on a train-and-trial contract,” he said.
“We kept him out there for 80 minutes because he was doing well against a pretty good pack against the Roosters.
“We’re talking now and are just about there in extending his time with us.”