Truth behind Samoan pair's bond
The list of brothers to have played top level rugby league together is a long and distinguished one but Samoa pair Jesse Sene-Lefao and Tim Simona may create their own slice of history when they line up against England on Saturday evening.
Contrary to reports that surfaced during the week, Simona is not Sene-Lefao's uncle but as the pair prepare to play together for the first time since they were representing Patrician Brothers Blacktown in high school there is a unique family bond that joins them.
Sene-Lefao's grandfather, Sele Sele, and Simona's mother, Pele, are brother and sister. That makes Simona first cousins with Sene-Lefao's mother and according to genealogy references makes the Samoan Test reps first cousins once removed.
Yet despite the generational gap, Sene-Lefao is the elder of the pair by two years.
Confused? So is Simona.
"I'm the uncle but he's the oldest," he told NRL.com.
"I try to look after him. His mum tells me to look after him so I think I'm in charge," added Sene-Lefao.
It's an example of the bond within a team that prides itself on culture, family and representing their nation and the people in it and which shapes as a driving motivator to prove the pundits wrong throughout the Four Nations tournament.
Prior to coming into camp in Brisbane the majority of the Samoan squad spent close to a week back in their homeland not only getting to know their teammates a little better but also themselves.
Five-eighth Ben Roberts was born in Sydney and had only experienced one similar Samoan camp in the past and said that connecting further with his culture gives him a greater sense of the importance of representing his people.
"For me it puts a lot of things in perspective in terms of what's important in life. Family is the No.1 priority in life for me and that was shown definitely back in the islands but also learning more about my culture," said Roberts, who will move to England with his wife and young son at the end of the Four Nations to link with Super League team Castleford.
"I was brought up the Australian way but there has always been the Samoan culture still around the family. To get back there and see first-hand how they live and how they are brought up and the fact that they are brought up with nothing but can still be happy just proves that materials in life aren't everything.
"The Samoan way is to respect your elders, to always remember that no matter what family is the most important thing."
Simona missed the Pacific Test against Fiji in May due to suspension and with neither having played in the 2013 World Cup Sene-Lefao said the clash with England will represent a special night for their family.
"They're really proud. My grandad just recently came over for my wedding and stuff so at the same time I know that our families are supporting us 100 per cent and they're really proud of our achievements," said the 24-year-old Sea Eagles forward. "To play together again and also playing at the top level is probably what they are most proud about.
"Going back to Samoa, rugby league isn't really very big, everyone knows union over there. Us going back and seeing the people that are following the Toa Samoa is massive. We actually got on TV in Samoa, we went out to schools and we got to see our families and how they live and what we saw was eye opening.
"We see a lot of things that we have here that they don't have and it just makes us proud and makes us want to play better for them."
As for the underdog tag that Samoa take into their first Four Nations tournament, Sene-Lefao warned of discounting their chances of causing some upsets along the way.
"[Being underdogs] is something that we thrive on. It makes us play harder, it makes us train harder and I totally disagree with the opinion of people that think we're the underdogs," he said.
"I reckon we're really going to shake this competition up and I reckon we're going to be the big surprise packets in this competition. We have a lot of threats all over the park and if we put two and two together I reckon we'll be hard to beat."