Sene-Lefao and Ah Mau's hidden bond
It wasn't until Manly's Jesse Sene-Lefao got into camp with the Toa Samoa Four Nations squad that he realised his and Dragons forward Leeson Ah Mau's families hailed from the same tiny village of Lalomauga in Samoa, but having hit it off and shared some family history, the pair are now preparing to face off in the NRL for the first time since that camp.
The duo aren't blood relatives but with small villages essentially like large extended families, they consider each other cousins, according to Sene-Lefao – who grinned that he may have to give Ah Mau a little bit of extra attention when they collide at WIN Stadium this Saturday.
"It was funny, playing Four Nations, we find out what village [each other is] from in Samoa and [his family is] from the same," Sene-Lefao said.
"I told my old man, he told his old man, they were like next door neighbours in the village in Samoa. Didn't know until we got there and [it turns out] we're all connected.
"When you get into camps like that everyone gets up and you say where you're from, how you're Samoan, what it means to you and it just came up like that."
Sene-Lefao was born in New Zealand but his father was born and raised in Lalomauga, and Sene-Lefao has been over to visit since – including last year when the Toa Samoa squad were in the country before and after the Four Nations.
One thing that struck Sene-Lefao was the fact his family, who are still in Samoa, were living in open-walled homes so he pooled resources with his father to buy the family an upgraded home.
"We've done that now and it's two years since the house has been built for my grandma so now we can go over there and live and stay in the house, it's good facilities, not as old school as before," he said.
"I was so happy to see how well and how happy my grandma was... It was an eye-opening experience, I really felt for them and I made it a goal of mine to try and help and make a difference."
In terms of this weekend's game, Sene-Lefao said with the Dragons coming off a comeback win and Manly off a loss at home to the Bulldogs the stage was set for a big clash.
"They're on a high now, coming off a really good win, I think they needed it and us coming off a loss as well, it's going to be massive so we really want to put a good performance together and get back in the winning circle," he said.
"I think our individual decision making could be better [than last week], there were a few decisions there we could have done better and could have won the game, I feel like we could have won the game actually."
And with the Representative Round looming in the first weekend in May, Sene-Lefao is hoping to return to the Test arena by putting in some strong performances for Manly.
"One hundred per cent; I loved every bit of it. I hoped I get picked this year and play some good footy," he said.