Derome Mafi, 15, has just been signed to the Bulldogs high development performance squad.
Derome Mafi, 15, has just been signed to the Bulldogs high development performance squad. Luka Kauzlaric

Bulldogs snap up talented young Gladstone league player

HE has only just settled into Australia after 12 months in the country, yet Derome Mafi is already making his mark across a wide stretch of the country.

At the ripe young age of 15, Derome has signed to a two-year contract with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, having wowed the club's recruitment staff 1500km away.

The whole situation is a strange occurrence to Derome, who is essentially still learning the game of rugby league, only starting to play when he arrived from Tauranga, New Zealand.

"There was no rugby union team here so I had to make the change," he said with a laugh.

"My first game of league was actually at the Capras trials."

After running around unsure of his role for a considerable period of time, Derome began to hone his skills and learn the game.

Watching his idol Sonny Bill Williams play for the Roosters this year helped his development, and it has more than one NRL club chasing him.

"There was the Broncos and the Bulldogs," he said. "When I was training with Central United the coach approached me about the Bulldogs."

The club then offered Derome, who is already 183cm tall, a two-year spot in the elite training high performance squad.

The first trip south is planned for January, but Derome will wait until he is old enough to join the team in Sydney for a permanent move.

With rugby union now on the outer because of his new found love of rugby league, Derome is hopeful of following in Williams's footsteps and one day winning an NRL premiership.

"Hopefully I make it to NRL," he said. "I can go for the team now. They have a few New Zealand players there."