Profile- Sione Faumuina

Those basketball skills New Zealand Warriors rugby league player Sione Faumuina uses on the field didn't come without practice.

Faumuina was a basketballer in schooldays because he was too skinny to play a contact sport.

"It definitely helps with your ball skills," he said of the sleight-of-hand more common in the round-ball game.

Faumuina didn't take up league until he was 18, his mate Sa Luatua dragging him along to the Glenora Bears.

Now Luatua plays for Richmond and watches his mate in the National Rugby League (NRL) from the stands at Ericsson Stadium.

"He was the one with the big dream of playing for the Warriors. He says I owe him everything and basically he's right."

Faumuina made the Auckland under-18 representative team within a year of concentrating on league, was spotted by talent scouts from the NRL when playing in the national age-group tournament at Hopu Hopu and signed on by the Canberra Raiders.

"I thought it was a big gee-up," he said of the first approach from an NRL scout.

By the end of the tournament he had five approaches. The other four were from Sydney clubs and his parents were concerned about letting their teenage son live in Australia alone.

After a family discussion he accepted the Raider's offer because the club ran a hostel for their development players and a Samoan couple was in charge.

But Canberra was a lonely place for the young player and soon he was homesick.

He had played 11 games for the Raiders but his form dropped off as his yearning for home grew. And, when the Warriors heard he wanted to get out, they approached the player and his club to make that happen.

He is much happier now. At Canberra he was a nobody among a lot of big egos. At the Warriors it's more family-oriented and everyone gets on well, the juniors included, he said.

But after settling into Auckland life again he admitted he got too comfortable last season, didn't put in the effort he should have.

"I fell into the trap of thinking I'd already made it."

This year he has worked hard.

"I used the Kiwi tour as motivation, I thought I could get ahead while the boys were resting after the tour."

The benefits are obvious. He was involved in three try-scoring breaks against the Eels last weekend.

The week before he picked up a deft inside kick from wing Francis Meli to score against the Sharks and helped Meli to a try.

The pair have a good understanding on the left side of the Warriors' attacks.

"Francis tells me what to do - to pass, to run, to come inside. He's played a lot more games than I have so I like to use his knowledge and experience."

Faumuina has been coming off the bench but on Sunday he gets his first start for the Warriors.

When Faumuina came on in the first minute of the match against Parramatta last Saturday after PJ Marsh was stretchered off, he went on to prove he could fire for the whole game and removed any doubts he could play out 80 minutes, coach Daniel Anderson said