Paasi to again skip Tonga Test
Burgeoning Gold Coast cult hero Agnatius Paasi will turn his back on representing Tonga in the mid-year Pacific Test so that he can show the same type of support to his partner that helped to resurrect his rugby league career two years ago.
Ready to walk away from rugby league when he was cut by the Warriors at the end of the 2014 season, Paasi was encouraged by his long-time partner Chloe to play on for one more year.
He left Chloe and their young son Manatoa back home in New Zealand while he took one last shot on the Gold Coast and now 18 months on he will pass on playing a second Test for Tonga to be by her side.
Chloe's graduation ceremony for her college studies is being held on the same weekend in Auckland that Tonga are scheduled to play a Pacific Test in Parramatta and while his form would warrant instant selection, Paasi has chosen to put family first.
"I'll probably miss another game this year because my partner's graduation lands on the same weekend so might have to give that one a miss," Paasi told NRL.com.
"Obviously we support each other in everything that we do so it will be a great moment for her and also for our family."
The 24-year-old missed Tonga's 18-16 loss to Samoa last year so that he could return home to New Zealand to visit Chloe and Manatoa and then the birth of Agnatius Junior in the off-season saw him skip Tonga's 28-8 win over the Cook Islands that secured their place in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
Paasi's lone Test to date came in October 2014 when Tonga travelled to Papua New Guinea and it proved to be a pivotal moment in his career.
Without a contract and with a young family to support, Paasi's prospects of a future in rugby league were looking slim before a call-up by Tonga coach Kristian Woolf helped to reignite his passion for the game.
"I was just very proud at that moment," Paasi recalled. "Playing with a new bunch of boys was a privilege and just going over there to PNG and seeing how their lifestyle was.
"It was very different to where I come from in the islands in Tonga and I was just very privileged to put that jersey on and play against a country that's pretty much divided.
"Playing over there it was pretty hot and the field was pretty much hard as a rock but it was a good game. We didn't come up with the win but it was an awesome weekend."
Little more than 12 months ago the coaching staff at the Titans were unsure whether Paasi had the discipline to succeed in the NRL but against the Knights in Round 1 he picked up exactly where he left off at the end of last year.
Having parlayed a 'train and trial' contract into a one-year deal and then a two-year extension, Paasi stormed home in his first season at the Titans to finish fourth in player of the year voting, earning man-of-the-match honours in Round 25 against the Dragons.
He took the Downer NRL Auckland Nines by storm in February with his power and skill and was integral in laying the platform for the win over the Knights on Sunday, running for 165 metres, making five tackle busts and scoring a sensational try.
Nathan Friend saw Paasi dominating in the lower grades during their time together at the Warriors and paid credit for the way he has grasped his opportunity in the NRL.
"He's probably just taken his opportunity and good luck to the guy because he's moved from New Zealand, got out of his comfort zone and he's obviously backed himself," Friend said.
"He was always a strong player in New Zealand, he just wasn't given the opportunity and obviously Neil's given him that and he's shown what he can do.
"He's certainly confident at the moment."