Fiji — Kevin Naiqama
Kevin Naiqama could not have been prouder when he was named captain of Fiji earlier this year. When the Wests Tigers star received the honour, before the Test match against Tonga in May, he spoke of his pride in representing his fellow players as well as his family and his friends in Fiji.
The 28-year-old outside back was born in Sutherland and played his junior football for Arncliffe Scots in Sydney. After a short stint with the St. George-Illawarra Dragons, Naiqama moved north to join his brother, Wes, at Newcastle Knights. Sport is a family affair for the Naiqamas, and Kevin thanks his rugby union-playing sister, Sera, for helping him to think about life after the NRL. “Seeing my sister dedicate herself like that to her rugby really made me not want to take footy and life for granted,” Naiqama said in a recent interview with the Sunday Telegraph. “It’s why I wanted to start my carpentry apprenticeship. It’s something I want to do after footy.”
Naiqama did the hard yards to break into the NRL. In Newcastle, he played in the National Youth Competition and earned a call up to the Fiji national team for the Pacific Cup in 2009. Fiji finished third after losing to the Cook Islands and beating Tonga in the third place playoff, thanks in part to the boot of Naiqama who was handed the goal-kicking duties.
A nuggety winger who can also play in the centres or at fullback, Naiqama broke into the NRL for the Knights in 2010, and was later named in the NSW Cup team of the year. He spend the 2011 season waiting for an opportunity, before scoring seven tries in just eight appearances for the Knights in 2012.
Despite these impressive stats, Naiqama was competing for a spot in a backline that consisted of Darius Boyd, AkuilaUateand James McManus. After being told to find game time elsewhere by the coaching staff at Newcastle, Naiqama signed a two-year deal with Penrith Panthers. After making just six appearances for the Panthers, Naiqama moved to Wests Tigers, where he has finally found regular, first-team football in the past three seasons.
The hardworking winger, who is adorned with tattoos of bible passages and pictures of Jesus, has been on a strict low-carb diet and has cut out alcohol during the season. It all bodes well for Fiji, who begin their World Cup campaign on 28 October against the USA in Townsville.
Fiji’s RLWC2017 Pool D Fixtures:
Fiji v USA, Saturday 28 October, Townsville Stadium
Fiji v Wales, Sunday 5 November, Townsville Stadium
Fiji v Italy, Friday 10 November, Canberra Stadium
RLWC2017 tickets start at just $10 kids/concessions $20 Adults and $45 for a family of four. Available now from rlwc2017.com.