He looks awesomehttp://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/leag ... 0t5oc.html
"New team, new Sam."
That was Melbourne Storm recruit Sam Kasiano's response to why he shaved his well-known beard but it could also describe how well the former Canterbury Bulldogs prop has fit into his new club.
When the Storm started pursuing Kasiano last year there were doubts the 195-centimetre prop could adjust to the club's rigorous fitness standards but he won over the leaders over with his words and, more importantly, he has followed with his pre-season actions.
There is no question Kasiano is more streamlined than his time at the Bulldogs, with some reports suggesting he has dropped 10 or more kilograms. But he is not interested in talking about weight loss numbers, but rather his desire to be in Storm's 17 against the Bulldogs at Perth's new Optus Stadium in round one.
"Sam's willingness to buy into how we do things here at the Storm is what has impressed the coaching staff and his teammates," Ponissi said.
"He has made a genuine effort [mentally] and more importantly the way we train, just by seeing him you can see how his body has changed and he has driven that.
"Our performance staff have guided him but he has done all the hard work whether it has been through his training or his diet. He is in great shape."
All that hard work has resulted in a couple of injury hiccups but he also remains a chance to play in the World Club Challenge against Leeds Rhinos on February 16.
He may even have a run in the Storm's closed doors trial game against Newcastle Knights on Wednesday.
"He has had a few niggling injuries during pre-season which has prevented him from participating in full training but that is only because his body is getting used to how how we do things," Ponissi said.
"Craig Bellamy will pick the best 17 against Leeds in terms of where they are right now. If Sam does enough he will get selected, if not he will work his way to round one."
I've adjusted but my kids are like, 'Dad, where is Bulldog, where is Bulldog?'
- Sam Kasiano
The 27-year-old admitted it has been the toughest pre-season of his career.
"That first two weeks of the program was probably the toughest two weeks but luckily the boys just kept pushing each other," Kasiano said.
"I think it was only really me and Hoffy [Ryan Hoffman] who were the older boys there ... but they kept pushing us through it."
Kasiano's family have quickly warmed to Melbourne.
"It's unreal and me and my family love it here, it's home for us now," he said.
"I thought it would be tough [moving] but the boys have been so welcoming and helped me out a lot and the club ... are always checking in with us."
The hardest members of the family to convince has been the prop's preschool-aged children, although Kasiano is confident once they see him playing in Storm colours they will adopt the purple and navy.
"I've adjusted but my kids are like, 'Dad, where is Bulldog, where is Bulldog?'," Kasiano said.
"I have to tell them it's Storm now, my oldest is five and he keep asking about the Bulldog. It's tough to explain it but I think he is starting to adjust to it.
"I just can't wait to play now, that will make it easier."
While Cameron Smith and Billy Slater still receive the biggest cheers, the Storm faithful have shown plenty of love for their former foe.
"It's usually boos but I'm glad I'm on this side now," Kasiano said.
"It feels right and I'm looking forward to the season."