Smooth move to Canberra for Nadruku fan Waqa
High-profile Raiders recruit and former Storm winger Sisa Waqa says he has found a move from Melbourne to Canberra a natural transition even though it was tough to leave his home town of five years.
Waqa also spoke highly of the history and culture at his new club – not least of all because it means he will be following in the footsteps of legendary Fijian Raiders winger Noa Nadruku – as well as his need to show some leadership as a now-senior player.
"It was tough [to leave Melbourne], I've been there for nearly five years. Melbourne has made me the player I am today. I learned a lot from [Craig] Bellamy and the boys down there," Waqa told NRL.com.
"It was tough for me to leave the club and move here and start a new life with a new club but I see that as an opportunity, as another change that's going to be an exciting time for myself and the family.
"I'm just looking forward to come here and working under Sticky [coach Ricky Stuart]. Everybody knows that Sticky is one of the legends of the game. So I just treat him the way I treat Bellamy, as my boss, and whatever he wants me to do I do out there on the footy field. I'm going to try and work with him and all his assistants the best I can for us to be better as a footy club."
Canberra had been one of his favourite clubs as a young boy growing up in Fiji, in no small part because of the Nadruku factor.
"For myself coming from Fiji, Canberra is one of my favourite teams, and obviously Nadruku was here back in the day, he was one of my idols – not only to myself but to people back home – and to come here and be part of this club the next few years it's an honour, to be honest, and a privilege.
"I can't wait to go out there and put the jumper on, it's a massive thing for me."
Waqa said while he was looking forward to a fresh start, most of the changes he has had to deal with had been minor and expected.
"It is a fresh start you know, new faces and all the little things, but just the transition was – I'm expecting them changes. That's what made the transition really easy, because I'm expecting it. It's not like going from Australia to England; I'm just coming from Melbourne to Canberra.
"Canberra have a really good history back in the days of Stick and Mal Meninga and all those boys, we'll try to build that culture again, we'll try to be better and better again to get that history back but we have to work hard.
"You have to get the good players and get the good coaching staff and we have it now, the good coaching staff and good administration and good bunch of boys, and that's a good sign for the future. We've been training hard to be honest. We're just looking forward to the season, you have to take it as it comes and not focus on the big picture, focus on what the boss says and the little things."
The embattled Stuart gave a well-publicised press conference in late 2014 after a series of poor results in which he declared that until the club recruited some representative players to add to his promising roster of home-grown talent the team would continue to struggle.
Waqa is just one of what turned into a contingent of big-name recruits over the off-season; Kiwi Test players Sia Soliola and Frank-Paul Nuuausala, British Test rake Josh Hodgson and highly-rated Wests Tigers utility Blake Austin are others.
"I see myself as a senior player here," Waqa said. "I'm trying to play my role to the best of my ability and talk is important.
"But it's not about the names these days, it's not about the experience you have, you still have to work hard and push for your spot. That's why it's an exciting time for me to come here as a senior player, I'm just going to try to go out there and perform because I know the young fellas out there are good enough and they can do the job well enough for the team."
Waqa's first chats with Stuart though were not about the coach's desire to add big-game players to the roster.
"I remember when I first had the chat to Sticky about trying to make a move here. For us as a footy club going forward it really strikes me [we've got] talented young boys here at the club, we just need some experience on the side. It's going to be an exciting time for us this season. The organisation and the culture is similar to Melbourne, that's an important thing to me, the boys are gelling well, as a club.
"I'm just looking forward to going out there and playing alongside these boys."