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Storm forward Joe Stimson.

An international forward is hard to replace but Melbourne Storm's Joe Stimson is doing an impressive job, according to teammate Felise Kaufusi.

The departure of Tohu Harris to the Warriors this year, meant the premiership-winning combination of Kaufusi and Dale Finucane were looking for a new back-row partner.

Up stepped former Storm under 20s captain Joe Stimson. From playing 15 games in 2017 he has been hard to leave out in 2018 with 21 games so far.

"I'm very excited for him," Kaufusi told "He's still only young and this is first full season of NRL, so I can only imagine what's to come.

"But in terms of what he brings, he's really trustworthy in the work he does and that's what you want in the heat of finals pressure.

"You want someone you can rely on. And I see that in Joe every time he's on the field."

Stimson played five of the first eight games of the Telstra Premiership season off the bench. But he's been edging his way into Craig Bellamy's starting line-up more often, starting in the second row nine of the past 11 games. 

"He's a good talker and a solid defender," Kaufusi said. "That's the type of player we want at Storm because we pride ourselves on our defence.

"If you're a good defender you'll go a long way down here."

The Storm will go straight to the preliminary final if they beat South Sydney at AAMI Park on Friday night.

But first Kaufusi, Stimson, Finucane and the rest of the team have to curtail the skills of a Rabbitohs back row containing John Sutton, Angus Crichton and Sam Burgess.

What do you love about the finals?

"They are going to be a handful," Kaufusi said.

"We lost last time we met [round 21] so first up we have to be better than that.

"You can't treat them as regular first grade back-rowers because they are all-rounders. They can kick, they can pass, set up plays, very unpredictable that way."

Not that Kaufusi is sitting back on his heels. The 26-year-old has made six line-breaks and 18 off-loads, along with five tries, for his 18 club games this year.

Interestingly, since his three maiden Origin games for Queensland this year he has more than doubled his post-contact metres for Storm, averaging 50. 

"I wasn't aware of that. I guess I took a bit of confidence out of Origin and playing at that level. Perhaps that's paid some dividends coming back to club football in trying to maintain the standards you set in rep footy."

It has definitely been a stunning 24 months for the Bundaberg Brothers junior.

He was named 18th man for the Storm in the 2016 grand final. Twelve months later he had forced himself into the starting side for the 2017 decider.

Then came an Australian jersey in Mal Meninga's World Cup squad and then a Maroons debut from Kevin Walters.

Storm back-rower Felise Kaufusi.
Storm back-rower Felise Kaufusi. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

But he doesn't suffer many nerves before big games.

"I just try to stick to my usual routine. I'm a pretty relaxed guy anyway. I'll take it easy on the couch watching TV – bingeing on a Netflix series. I make things as simple as I can so I don't overthink the game coming up.

"I try to remain stress-free because worrying about the game will only wear me out."


Don't miss out on seeing your team chase premiership glory. Make sure to get your tickets to week 1 of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series

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