Steven Ross, North Queensland Correspondent, NRL.com
When the New Zealand Test side was named last Sunday you could be forgiven for doing a double take on one name in particular and asking: Siliva who?
Indeed, 21-year-old Warriors hooker Siliva Havili is the biggest international bolter since the Kiwis plucked a 20-year-old Krisnan Inu from reserve grade to make his Test debut in 2007, after only one NRL match.
While Havili has touched the ball only 32 times in three NRL games off the bench, on Friday night he will be thrust into the Test arena against a Kangaroos team which has an average age of 28.5.
While most outside of Warriors territory have probably never heard of Havili, coach Andrew McFadden believed he would make the most of the opportunity.
“I think even Siliva was surprised, he has only played three NRL games so of course it would be,” McFadden said ahead of the trans-Tasman clash at Allianz Stadium.
“It’s a great opportunity for him, he is certainly a player of the future for the club and this will only give him more confidence to go and play NRL at a better level.
“When you get given those opportunities you just have to take it. I think he will handle it fine.”
With injuries to first-choice dummy-halves Issac Luke and Thomas Leuluai, plus usual stand-in Elijah Taylor, Stephen Kearney has been forced to start Ben Henry, usually a centre or second-rower for the Warriors, at hooker.
Given New Zealand’s lack of depth in the position, that left virtually no option but to pick Havili, who has already represented his country of heritage, Tonga, at the 2013 World Cup.
The man who coached Havili through his early teenage years, Doug Murray, recalls a time when the young rake’s prospects weren’t quite so bright however.
“In 2006, he was about 13 and wasn’t doing particularly well that year,” said Murray, who is now the Holden Cup team manager at the Warriors.
“I took him to the Manurewa Marlins and we got him on track. That year he missed out on the Auckland squad, up until then he had always made them.
“I was really proud [to hear Siliva made the Kiwis], I have followed his career since he was 13 and I have known him since he was 10.
“I am very proud of his achievements, not just because he is going to become a Test player now, but also through his education, he has done exceptionally well.
“He has great character and charisma, he can talk to anybody and is great off the field. He is a real role model for other kids.”
Warriors teammate Sebastine Ikahihifo, who has played alongside Havili for several years in the club’s Holden Cup, reserve grade and now NRL sides, was equally ecstatic when he heard the news.
“I am proud of him, he has been working really hard,” he said.
“He has been all about eating broccoli and things on his diets, I don’t even know what he is now, a goat or a cow maybe!
“He has been staying humble about it, it’s a dream come true, making first grade this year and then making the Kiwis.”
Havili is one of five named in the Kiwis squad who played junior footy with Auckland club the Manurewa Marlins, along with Greg Eastwood, Peta Hiku and Jesse and Kenny Bromwich.