Felise Kaufusi makes a run for the Cowboys in a clash with Parramatta Eels.
Felise Kaufusi makes a run for the Cowboys in a clash with Parramatta Eels. Colin Whelan

'Make or break' for Kaufusi

BUNDABERG's Felise Kaufusi heads back to Townsville this week for the start of pre-season training, hoping to go one better next year.

The 19-year-old played frontrow in the North Queensland Cowboys' team which suffered a golden point loss to New Zealand Warriors in the internationally televised National Youth League (NYL) grand final last month.

Since then he has enjoyed time at home with his family and also kept up his fitness by playing three games for West Barbarians in the Rugby Spring Cup, which he said was "definitely good fun".

But league is his career and despite having a very good 2011 - his second season with the Cowboys - Kaufusi is only signed with them until the end of next season and he said 2012, which will also be his last in the NYL, would be his "make or break" year.

Apart from their grand final loss, the tough and skilful forward said he had achieved just about every one of his goals this season.

"It was pretty heart breaking to lose like that, especially after we had the chance to win it with a conversion kick after the fulltime siren, but that's footy - you win some and lose some," Kaufusi said.

Kaufusi joined the Cowboys after finishing year 12 at Shalom College in 2009.

"But I only played one (NYL) game last year (2010) - other than that I didn't get another run, so to play every game this year, 29 or maybe 30 with the grand final, it was pretty amazing," he said.

"I did not expect as many games as I did but hopefully I can improve on that again next year, and hopefully we can win it."

Kaufusi is not sure what helped his transition from a fringe player to a front line man, but he is hoping to take further steps next year, although all his current focus is on the NYL.

"A bit of hard work finally paid off, but there's definitely still some areas to improve - my strength has gone up and the same with my skills but definitely my game fitness can still improve," he said.

The Young Cowboys will have a new coach next season in Todd Wilson after their doyen of the past few seasons, Kristian Woolf, joined the Broncos.

"Todd is a local and is highly respected, and he will slot into the job nicely," Kaufusi said.

Kaufusi is hoping to play with his younger brother Patrick, who was part of the Cowboys' program this year but played in Townsville league until his season prematurely ended with injury.

He would love to follow his elder brother Antonio into the NRL.

Antonio will feature in the English Superleague after playing in the NRL for Melbourne, North Queensland and Newcastle earning Australian and Queensland jerseys.

"I will see how I go but it would be pretty unlikely for me to get an NRL game next year, although it would be the ultimate if I was lucky enough to get a call up but my focus is playing the best I can in the NYL and I'm not looking further than that at the moment," he said.

"The next step will be to get an NRL contract."