Seumanufagai comes full circle
In just seven years Ava Seumanufagai has gone from a rugby league novice at the Wainuiomata Lions to established first-grader at the Wests Tigers.
As a young kid from Wellington, Seumanufagai jumped on a plane bound for Australia as soon as he finished high school to play in the National Youth Competition for Parramatta, thanks largely to the influence of two men – then recruiter Rod Reddy and former Eels' Under 20s coach Matt Cameron.
His time at Parramatta came to an end in 2011 partly because he "was missing home and was a big sook" and he ended up at the Wests Tigers the next season.
With Jason Taylor being named coach of the Tigers in September, and with Seumanufagai boasting 40 NRL games to his name, the club's new mentor went about looking for new assistant coaches… and as fate would have it, well, we'll let Seumanufagai fill in the blanks.
"The funny story of JT becoming the coach here is the bloke who recruited me to the Eels was Rod Reddy and Matt Cameron was my Under 20s coach there as well and now they are the assistant coaches here," Seumanufagai grins explaining to NRL.com.
"It's good to see their familiar faces around here now and to see how far we have all come together."
Not only has Seumanufagai travelled full circle in a sense but so too has Cameron and Reddy when it comes to the young career of the 23-year-old prop.
Alongside former Kiwis international and fellow Tigers assistant David Kidwell, the trio of coaches has inspired Seumanufagai to follow in their footsteps.
Reddy and Kidwell especially were two of the fiercest forwards in their respective eras and that is not lost on Seumanufagai.
"I guess when you see someone do something you want to follow them. In that sense then, when you see someone on the team get aggressive, that makes you want to follow in their footsteps," he said.
"Hopefully everyone has been picking up what they have brought to the team."
Aggression, or lack of, was something Seumanufagai struggled with in the initial stages of his professional rugby league career.
But with Kidwell and Reddy on his side and a certain comfortableness that has shined through with his experience in both training and playing, Seumanufagai is primed for a huge 2015 season.
"I guess aggression for me is easier to draw upon the more conditioned and fitter I become," Seumanufagai said.
"This pre-season we have been doing a lot more specific conditioning like when you're tired and stuff you can still pick up the aggression and I myself now feel a lot more relaxed because of my past experience.
"We have a lot of young boys coming through so it's definitely time for me to step up and try to start leading the way."
Video courtesy of WestsTigers.com.au