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Fusitu'a overcomes self-doubt to become club's ironman

Once an injury-prone kid who questioned if his body could handle first-grade football, David Fusitu'a has grown to become one of the most durable players on the New Zealand Warriors' roster.

Since round six in 2016, Fusitu'a has appeared in 65 of a possible 67 NRL Telstra Premiership games for the Auckland-based club, and in 2017 was the only Warrior to feature in all 24 of their matches.

But consistent fitness wasn't always the case for Fusitu'a, with injuries a leading reason for him failing to nail down a regular first-grade spot in the first two years of his NRL career. 

"Early in my career it was a bit touch and go, just not knowing if my body could take this competition, which is pretty brutal on the body week in, week out," Fusitu'a said ahead of Sunday's match against the Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium.

"I felt like I was injured a bit more than most young kids. Even before I played under-20s I had fractured ankles and popped shoulders, fractured wrists.

"I wasn't the biggest boy, I was a bit of a skinny kid running around, and there were some big kids running around in Auckland, so that definitely didn't help."

Warriors winger David Fusitu'a.
Warriors winger David Fusitu'a. ©Shane Wenzlick/NRL Photos

Now in his sixth season at first-grade level, Fusitu'a has established himself as one of the game's premier wingers, last year scoring 22 tries in as many regular season games and becoming the first Warrior to top the competition's try-scoring list.

The 24-year-old Mate Ma'a Tonga representative heads into round two this year with a pair of try assists, a line break and 138 run metres already to his name.

Warriors head of performance Alex Corvo told NRL.com his team had introduced a number of new ideas to Fusitu'a in an effort to build physical resilience in the 189cm-tall winger.

"He's taken responsibility for things he needs to do away from training," Corvo said.

"There's been a number of different areas we have tried to educate 'Fus' on, in terms of his preparation and those things.

"Part of building a resilient athlete is building volume and work, so that's come about by the amount of training he has been able to do and working hard and smart.

"He's seen a need for that and the benefit of it."

Warriors winger David Fusitu'a.
Warriors winger David Fusitu'a. ©Shane Wenzlick/NRL Photos

Meanwhile prop Bunty Afoa said the Warriors pack's close bond shapes as their biggest weapon ahead of facing a Tigers outfit which includes three former Warriors in Ben Matulino, Elijah Taylor and Russell Packer.

"We are willing to put our bodies on the line for each other, that's what you want from a teammate, if you see them run hard then you want to run twice as hard, if they get hit, you're willing to get hit with them," Afoa told NRL.com.

"I was really happy with our middles last week, and our bench came on and did their job as well.

"But we can't be inconsistent in our performances. As a team we can't have one player having a good day and then being off the next week."