Kaufusi stands tall for Storm
The Storm have made a perfect start to the season despite injuries to Jesse Bromwich and Tohu Harris.
It's been hard enough having to fill the void of pre-season departures of Blake Green, Marika Koroibete and Kevin Proctor, but Melbourne have found a way.
In their absence several of the Storm's youngsters have stood up for the side to jump out of the gates to an impressive unbeaten 3-0 start.
Kenny Bromwich, Joe Stimson, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Ryley Jacks have seized their opportunities to be an integral part of Melbourne's early-season success.
In particular, Felise Kaufusi has stood out in the Storm forward pack, and was close to earning man-of-the-match honours with a superb 80-minute performance in a gritty 14-12 win over the Brisbane Broncos last week.
Kaufusi was 18th man for Queensland in Origin III last season, with the experience providing a launch pad into this season's strong start for the promising 24-year-old.
In an expanded role this year, Kaufusi exploded for 157 metres from 18 hit-ups and 30 tackles against Brisbane.
Melbourne's youngsters fulfilling those minutes effectively is certainly imperative for Melbourne – even more now –with Jordan McClean joining Harris to be leaving for new teams in 2018, in addition to injuries to Suliasi Vunivalu and Cameron Munster out of last week's match.
"[The increased minutes] is pretty new for me," Kaufusi said.
"For the last two, three years, I've been playing 20 minutes, if that. It's a big step up but it's something I've got to do.
"I've been liking that, and hopefully I can continue that.
"It's pretty taxing playing 80 minutes as I found."
It's been a tough start to the season with games in Sydney and Auckland under heavy rain and that has taken a toll on the team.
The much-publicised return of Billy Slater came at the perfect time for Melbourne in need of a positive-morale booster before their first game at home.
Slater will inject another much-needed dose of experience for the Storm's group of youngsters for their clash against the under-the-pump Wests Tigers this week.
"The confidence goes through the roof with him at the back with his experience," Kaufusi said. "When he came on he gave us a second wind.
"It was awesome having him on the field. The crowd really picked us up when he came on.
"That's the scary thing, he was a bit rusty but he'll be back to the Billy that we know."