Blood thicker than water for Naiqamas
Brothers and Fijian Test stars Wes and Kevin Naiqama are gearing up to sport the Penrith jumper for the final time this weekend.
With Wes moving over to England to play with the London Broncos and Kevin shifting over to Concord to play for the Wests Tigers in 2015, they will see out their time together at the foot of mountains against the Northern Pride in the inaugural NRL State Championship.
After extending their seasons by a week after winning the NSW Cup last weekend against their old club Newcastle, it will also be the end of the brothers spending their days at the same club, having shared time at the Dragons, Knights and Penrith.
Wes's move to the Hunter in 2008 encouraged his younger brother, almost seven years his junior, to follow suit two years later, allowing the eldest Naiqama the privilege to see his brother grow into the player and person he is today.
"When I first went to Newcastle he followed me as a young boy but then he came through and we played his first grade debut together and in the World Cup teams so it has been a dream come true for us," Wes tells NRL.com.
"I'm proud of him and so is the whole family. He has a big future ahead of him so hopefully he can go to the Tigers next year find his feet and cement himself a spot in the NRL where he deserves to be.
"He has a lot to offer to any club he is at so I'm hopefully he grabs his opportunities next year and performs on the NRL stage."
While 25-year-old Kevin has plenty of time to prosper, Wes has spent the season in NSW Cup, observing that its standard of footy has gone from strength to strength in recent years.
After giving the green light to the concept of having the best Queensland and New South Wales club teams playing off against one another on grand final day, Naiqama is now keen to go out with a flourish, with his brother by his side.
"Reserve grade has certainly come a long way in the past two or three years," Wes said.
"It died off there when the 20s came in – I'm not bagging the Holden Cup – but personally I think we need a step up from there before you go into the NRL.
"The standard is only going to get stronger especially with this new concept coming in."
While the former Fijian captain's time in the NRL may be coming to a close after 121 appearances, Wes insists he is still hungry to succeed in London.
After signing with the Broncos in August, he is eager to put his best foot forward for the ailing club.
"The Broncos were obviously relegated from the Super League this year so the big goal for the players will be to get promoted back for the 2016 season," Wes said. "I'm keen to put forward my best and contribute as much as I can when I get over there."