NRL: Fijian sevens star one to watch at Eden Park

By Michael Brown

Sisa Waqa (left) says his sevens background should come in handy for the fast-paced nines contest. Photo / Getty Images
Sisa Waqa (left) says his sevens background should come in handy for the fast-paced nines contest. Photo / Getty Images

All Sisa Waqa really wanted to do when growing up was play sevens for Fiji.

It looked a realistic prospect as he came through the Fijian rugby system, playing at first five-eighth for the under-19 and under-21 sides before making his full international debut at 17.

But a move to Sydney in 2008 changed his life. The intention was to develop his rugby career and he was offered a contract by the Brumbies, but the Australian Rugby Union refused to register the contract because he had already played for Fiji.

The NRL had no such issues and the Sydney Roosters signed Waqa in 2009, when he played seven NRL games.

He switched to Melbourne in 2011 and he's already won an NRL title and become a crucial component of a continually evolving Storm outfit.

It's not quite sevens but Waqa will play in this weekend's inaugural Auckland Nines at Eden Park and, given his speed, try-scoring ability and background in sevens, is expected to be one of the tournament standouts.

"Sevens is massive back home in Fiji," Waqa said.

"It's one of the things everyone looks forward to every year.

"Playing for Fiji in sevens was one of my dreams as a little kid. Just to put that white jumper on."

The 27-year-old did that last year when he helped Fiji to the semifinals of the World Cup before they were humbled by Australia 64-0 at Wembley.

He's likely to play for them again in May when Fiji take on Samoa for the right to play in this year's Four Nations with Australia, New Zealand and England.

Melbourne will send a weakened side to Auckland for the nines.

Coach Craig Bellamy signalled early on his Big Three of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk weren't likely to play.

"It's going to be a little bit of an advantage [having played sevens]," Waqa said.

"The game is going to be quick. It's going to be a massive difference to 13-a-side.

"There's not much difference between sevens and nines with two extras. It's about throwing the ball around."

Waqa is sure to get some pointers from his father, Eddie Waqa, who was a former coach of the Fijian sevens side and then national sevens director with the Tonga Rugby Union before his contract was terminated because he refused to travel to a recent sevens tournament in Wallis and Futuna by boat rather than fly.

Storm chasers

Ryan Hoffman (c), Will Chambers, Sisa Waqa, Joel Romelo, Mahe Fonua, Matt Duffie, Young Tonumaipea, Mitch Garbutt, Justin O'Neill, Tohu Harris, Matthew Lodge, Kevin Proctor, Slade Griffin, Kurt Mann, Cameron Munster, Richie Kennar, Jesse Bromwich.

- APNZ

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