Felise Kaufusi lifts lid on Brandon Smith act that sparked Dolphins heroics

The State of Origin forward was a man on a mission in the new club's debut victory in the NRL.

Brandon Smith, pictured here needling Felise Kaufusi before his rampage in the Dolphins' win over the Roosters.
Brandon Smith needled Felise Kaufusi before his rampage in the Dolphins' win over the Roosters. Image: Fox Sports

Felise Kaufusi has opened up about how a 'smirk' from Brandon Smith inspired his incredible performance in the Dolphins' debut victory over the Sydney Roosters. Kaufusi was named player of the match after going on a defensive rampage as the Dolphins shocked the NRL world in beating the Roosters 28-18 in their inaugural match.

With the Dolphins trailing 12-6 late in the first half, Kaufusi pulled off a number of humongous hits - one on Egan Butcher and another on Smith. The Dolphins then levelled the score at 12-12 going into half-time before blitzing the Roosters with three more tries in the second half.

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Kaufusi's defensive display was widely credited as turning the game in the Dolphins' favour, and he was rightly named player of the match for his efforts. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the Queensland Origin forward revealed how a cheeky act from former Melbourne Storm teammate Smith sparked his rampage.

Kaufusi had rushed up out of the line to put a big hit on Butcher midway through the first half, but missed with a wild swinging arm going over the top of Butcher's head. Smith then shoved Kaufusi in the back, which saw Kaufusi retaliate and give away a penalty.

Smith then shot Kaufusi a cocky smirk before offering some choice words to his former teammate. Soon after, Kaufusi lodged the ball from Butcher's grasp with a massive hit, before laying out Smith with another thunderous tackle that won hit of the round.

“He actually pissed me off that little rascal. I think he pushed me, he pushed me and I looked back to try and see who it was and he just gave me a little smirk,” Kaufusi said on NRL 360.

“In the heat of the moment it got the better of me and I gave away a silly penalty and that’s something that I wanted to make up for. I got my chance and I tried to make sure that I got him, and I got lucky there.

"From there I wanted to go out and be aggressive and I think I did that. He poked the bear I guess and it was good to get one back on him."

Smith admitted on the 'Bye Round podcast' that he had needled Kaufusi, but denied sledging him. “No I didn’t spray him, I remember he did a swinging arm and I kind of walked over and pushed him,” Smith said.

“But like I didn’t say anything to him, and then he kind of ran back and we had a little giggle for a moment and then he got a penalty. Then I had my little smile on, but I didn’t say anything, I’m not a big sprayer on the field.”

Felise Kaufusi, pictured here holding the Arty Beetson Medal after the Dolphins' win over the Roosters.
Felise Kaufusi holds the Arty Beetson Medal after the Dolphins' win over the Roosters. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

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Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett also highlighted how Kaufusi's aggression left the Roosters rattled. "That was the turning point of the game. I don't think they recovered from that," Bennett said in his post-match press conference.

Kaufusi was the Dolphins' first-ever signing, but Bennett and the club have copped criticism for failing to lure any 'marquee' signings. They missed out on the likes of Cameron Munster, Kalyn Ponga and Reed Mahoney, but managed to sign some very experienced campaigners.

"It was quite funny because I had a phone call with Wayne after I signed," Kaufusi recalled. "Other players weren't coming and he said, 'If I have to play, I will put on a jumper'. That gave me confidence.

"The media was going, 'You didn't get this person or this person', but he just reassured me that it doesn't matter who we get. He will put people in there that are going to compete. That is all I worried about."

with AAP

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