Rugby league: Longest-serving NZ Warriors star David Fusitua parts ways with club, links with Leeds Rhinos

NZ Warriors' longest-serving player - David Fusitua - is heading to the English Super League to link with Leeds Rhinos next season.

The 2018 Dally M Tryscorer of the Year only played five games in the 2021 NRL season, missing most of the year with a leg injury.

Despite being contracted through the end of 2023, Fusitua, 27, has apparently asked the club permission to speak to potential suitors in both Europe and the NRL. 

The Tongan international winger debuted for the Auckland-based club in 2014 and scored 61 tries in 108 games.

Fusitua's breakthrough season came in 2018, when he scored 23 tries in 23 games, but he struggled to repeat that form, scoring just six in his final 20 appearances for the Warriors.

Fusitua returned home early from Australia during the COVID-ravaged 2020 season and couldn't find his feet in 2021, as the club based themselves in Australia for the second straight year.

With Kiwis captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Adam Pompey and former Canterbury Bulldogs winger Marcelo Montoya in the ranks, as well as the emergence of youngster Edward Kosi, Fusitua's road back to the Warriors starting line-up was daunting. 

"David has an opportunity to secure his future in the United Kingdom and wants the chance to make a fresh start," says Warriors recruitment manager Peter O'Sullivan.

"He has had a difficult time in 2020 and 2021, but at his best, he is one of the leading outside backs in the game. Going to the Super League gives him the chance to rediscover his form.

"As our longest-serving Warriors player, he has made a huge contribution to the club. We thank him for his service, and wish David and his family all the best for the future."

Newshub understands Fusitua favoured the move to Europe as an easier transition to a rugby union career, while the Warriors were keen to retain his services, but didn't want to stand in his way.