Penrith star Josh Mansour has hailed Warriors counterpart David Fusitu’a as arguably the toughest match-up of his career ahead of their NRL elimination final on Saturday.
Just two weeks after conceding three tries to Fusitu’a in their round 24 clash in Auckland, Mansour is again preparing to face the league’s leading tryscorer.
He has scored seven tries in his past four games alone.
And across a career that has taken him to the heights of State of Origin and international level, Mansour ranks Fusitu’a amongst the best wingers he has ever faced.
“He’d be up there, definitely,” Mansour tells AAP.
“His form right now proves that. He’s finished at the top of the tryscoring list, he’s shown what he can do. He’s just a top-quality athlete.”
A Dally M winger of the year in 2016, Mansour insists stopping this year’s likely recipient of the award can’t be a one-man job.
“He’s got great players inside him that have been doing a lot of hard work for him in getting in those positions,” Mansour says.
“In saying that, I can’t turn my back to him. I’ve got to be aware of where he is all the time.”
Panthers fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak had always predicted big things for Fusitu’a.
The New Zealand internationals met as Junior Kiwis over five years ago, when the clubs battled at the same ground for the former National Youth Competition title.
Four Panthers players remain from the triumphant side, including Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Isaah Yeo and Mansour’s centre partner in Waqa Blake.
In contrast, only Solomone Kata will take the field from that clash while Mason Lino is on this week’s extended bench.
A total of 18 players from both sides have gone on to achieve NRL honours.
“Fusitu’a was the same back then as he is now,” Watene-Zelezniak recalls.
“He was just this big, massive thing and really solid. We knew we had a job to do on him back then and it’s the same now. You’ve got to bring your best with him or he’ll just run over you.”
MANSOUR v FUSITU’A IN 2018
Games: 13 – 22
Tries: 8 – 22
Line breaks: 6 – 18
Tackle busts: 42 – 34
Average runs: 15.7 – 10.7
Average metres (m): 137 – 99