Agnatius Paasi will return to the Aquis Titans pre-season training opening session in early November a very different player than the newcomer who struggled well behind his teammates during the gruelling early sessions of 2014.
If any Titans players of this season exemplify taking an opportunity and showing how potential can start to turn to example, it would be Tongan-born Paasi and PNG-born Nene Macdonald.
Paasi came here on a trial-and-train contract on the recommendation of incoming assistant coach Rowan Smith who had coached in in the Warriors’ NSW Cup (reserve grade) side.
He did enough to earn a one-season deal despite being well behind the others fitness-wise pre-Christmas. Despite initially struggling with defensive consistency and the speed of the NRL in the early rounds, he progressed further to earn a new two-year contract and finish the season playing 80 minutes in the final three games and being the team’s most dangerous attacking weapon in the forwards on the left edge that had been occupied by Ryan James effectively in the first half of the season.
“I just wanted to improve the little things in my game and become more consistent,” Paasi said at season’s end before he returned to Auckland for the off-season and become a father for the second time. Partner Chloe presented him with a son, Agnatius Jnr, on October 5.
“I kept learning every week and tried to get better every game and I was really happy that I was able to finish the season pretty strongly.
“I learned heaps from the boys, and the coaches, but it was one week at a time and taking the opportunities I got.
“But I want to improve next season and establish myself.”
Paasi, who impressed as an under-20s player after playing for Keebra Park State High during two years out of home from Auckland, had played just one NRL game (for the Warriors) before coming to the Gold Coast. So it was a gamble for him and the club to base his future on a pre-season and trial performances.
Almost a year on, it has worked for both parties.
Paasi played off the bench in the season opener against Wests Tigers and in seven of the first 13 matches, but he averaged only 29 minutes per game as he came to grips with the demands of the pace of the NRL.
In the midst of an injury crisis, he was forced to play 80 minutes for the first time in the round 16 clash with the Roosters and had his best game of the season until then.
He finished the season so strongly that he played 74 minutes in the round 23 clash with the Bulldogs, again in Gosford, and played 80 minutes in the last three games. In the round 25 farewell to the home following against the Dragons at Cbus Super Stadium he was the universal man of the match in his stand-out performance of 2015.
He polled votes in the Paul Broughton Medal in the final four clashes to finish fourth in the player of the year award behind Luke Douglas, Ryan James and James Roberts.
“He was certainly one of the success stories of the year and we hope will only improve more in 2016,” said coach Neil Henry.
That’s a fact.
AGNATIUS PAASI’s 2015 SEASON
Avg. mins: 47
Avg. runs per game: 8.8
Avg. metres per game: 85
Avg. tackles: 21
Line breaks: 5
Career stats: Games – 25; tries – 2.