WILDFIRES coach Scott Coleman was confident that he was getting a quality player when he signed Kirk Tufuga from Kiwi rugby union heartland Palmerston North.
The powerhouse No.8 has proved that and much more.
In a short time, Tufuga has emerged as a leader - on and off the field.
"He is not a flashy player, but he is pretty big and physical and is very effective," Coleman said. "He makes minimal errors and executes at a high rate.
"He gives us so much more off the field. He is highly educated, very humble and just a champion person."
On Saturday, Tufuga and fellow blue-chip arrivals OJ Noa and Henry Stowers will be charged with leading a Wildfires outfit desperate to upset Randwick at No.2 Sportsground.
"Kirk, OJ and Henry were our three best players last week and we need them to lead the way again this week," Coleman said.
"Not many teams can go around Randwick. They are very fast and execute well out wide. You have to go through them to beat them. Whether you are a ball carrier, support player or looking to run at the next ruck, everything has to be clinical."
It's a challenge Tufuga is looking forward to.
"Randwick have a mobile pack and really quick backs," Tufuga said. "We have to roll our sleeves up and try to bully them for 80 minutes.
"We played them in pre-season and put in a solid performance. It was pouring rain, we didn't really know how each other played, but the boys were willing to put in. I'm hoping the same thing happens this week. Don't overthink it. It is a game of footy, get in do our jobs and everything will be all right."
Tufuga, who has been joined in Newcastle by wife Levana and four-year-old daughter Jada, said it had taken time to settle into his new surroundings.
His younger brother and front-rower Sam also came across and played off the bench in the 15-9 loss to West Harbour last round.
Tufuga had been entrenched in Palmerston North, where he captained Wairarapa Bush in the Heartland Championship last year before being called into the Manawatu Turbos.
"It has been challenging moving over here," he said. "Just trying to settle in and get all the admin stuff done, get work sorted and get my bearings around the place. We came in with an open mind and could potential stay here long term. I am big on family. I have never been away from my family, mum and dad. It is a big shift for us but is also a good opportunity to grow.
"Rugby-wise I am still trying to find my feet in a new team. It will take a while to form that cohesion.
"Players are at different stages of their development. We are trying to balance each other out, work out our strengths. As long as we all understand our role and do our job, the results will take care of itself.
"It is only week four of a 20-week season. As long as we learn each week and improve."
Meanwhile, the Wildfires women will be chasing their first win of the campaign against Gordon at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
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