NRL: Francis Meli backs David Fusitu'a to break Warriors try-scoring record

Former Warriors winger Francis Meli has praised David Fusitu'a for revolutionising the wing position, as he closes in on his club try-scoring record.  

Fusitu'a has scored 21 tries in as many appearances in the 2018 NRL season - despite a five-game scoreless stretch - and is two behind Meli for the most by a Warrior in a season, achieved in 2003.

Five of Meli's tries came in a famous finals match against the Bulldogs in Sydney - and he played in 27 games that season.

Fusitu'a's hat-trick against the Panthers last Friday saw him become the first Warrior to reach the 20-try mark in a regular season and with at least two games left for the Warriors, there is a strong chance 'Fus' breaks Meli's record haul.

This season, the 23-year-old has found a home in the 'two' jersey, where his freakish athleticism and innate finishing ability have made him a threat for defences across the NRL.

His skillset saw him voted the second best winger - behind Melbourne's Josh Addo-Carr - in an players' poll earlier in the season.

Since the NRL changed rulles to take corner posts out of play, wingers have been able to show off their diving abilities more in recent seasons. Previously, if you touched the flag, you were deemed to be out of play, but that doesn't apply in today's game.

On top of that, he has become the main target, as the Warriors continue to utilise a short goal-line drop-out. More often than not, these kicks are directed to Fusitu'a's wing, where he usually wins back possession for his side.

Francis Meli.
Francis Meli. Photo credit: Photosport

Meli thinks Fusitu'a has taken advantage of that change to make this skill his own.

"He has had an outstanding season in terms of consistency," he told Newshub. "He's tall, he's fast and he can hold the ball like it's a tennis ball, which many can't.

"Everybody has their unique style and David's got that. The rules have changed with the scoring abilities, as the corner post doesn't come into play anymore.

"David holding the ball and scoring a metre in the air on the sideline is an element that has added to the entertainment."

Fusitu'a never set out to breaking the Warriors record for most tries in a season, but during the loss to the Bulldogs, he also became the fastest player to 50 career NRL tries at the club.

"I just thought the more tries I score for the team is better for the team," Fusitu'a told Newshub. "It is nothing I set out to do at the start of the year.

“It is about fulfilling my potential and no matter where I play, I back myself against any winger. Right now, it’s about fulfilling my potential and getting better every week."

Fusitu'a doesn’t see himself as a winger long-term.

"At the moment, I'm enjoying myself on the wing, and ‘Mooks’ [Stephen Kearney] thinks it is the best for me and the team.

"Playing centre is a long-term goal for me, but at the moment, I'm relishing my role in helping the team."

Meli agrees with Fusitu'a's assessment.

"He is also versatile, because he can play fullback and slot in a centre too.

"The more he gets his hands on the ball, he looks dangerous.

"Right now winger is his best spot. I'd like to see him at centre, but he probably needs a good pre-season and another year, so he can learn and understand what it takes to become a good centre."

Meli will be among with 25,600 fans at Mt Smart Stadium on Friday night to celebrate Simon Mannering's 300th game.

It would be fitting if Fusitu'a broke the try-scoring record to mark the occasion and with one of the Warriors best watching from the stands.

Top Warriors try-scorers:

  • Francis Meli (2003): Games: 27, Tries: 23.
  • David Fusitu'a (2018): Games 21, Tries 21.
  • Manu Vatuvei (2010): Games: 19, Tries 20.
  • Sean Hoppe (1995): Games: 22, Tries: 19.
  • Clinton Toopi (2002): Games: 24, Tries: 18.


NRL: Francis Meli backs David Fusitu'a to break Warriors try-scoring record