Vaivai eyes Samoan call-up
After almost two years on the outer Paterika Vaivai is now back in the NRL with the Gold Coast Titans and wants to use it as a springboard to a Samoan Test jersey against England in the upcoming Representative Round.
Vaivai has been named in the Titans team for the third straight week and after losses against the Raiders and Broncos, he and his teammates are desperate for a different result against the defending premiers.
When Vaivai made his maiden appearance for the Titans in Round 6 it had been 638 days between NRL starts for the now 25-year-old who spent a year playing for the Burleigh Bears in the Intrust Super Cup after being caught up in a brawl in Brisbane in October 2015.
He was a key figure in the Bears winning the Intrust Super Cup title last year and after being offered a one-year deal to join the Titans had it upgraded recently to take him through until the end of the 2018 season.
Determined to ensure there are no more potholes in his rugby league career, Vaivai came out all guns blazing against the Raiders, running for more metres in 27 minutes of game time than any other Titans forward in the 42-16 loss.
Now that he is back in the NRL, Vaivai says that his next goal is to fulfil his dream of playing for the country of his birth, Samoa.
"That's probably my main goal. I would love to pull on that blue jersey," Vaivai told NRL.com of his Samoan hopes.
"I was born there, all my siblings were born there, my parents are from there and it's a real big thing for me.
"I love my culture and I love being Samoan.
"[Playing NRL] is a big stepping stone to get to the international jersey but I've just got to focus for the Titans, especially this week against Cronulla, and try to play my best.
"I'm just trying to take every week as it comes and if it does come then it comes but if it doesn't then I'm just happy to play for the Titans."
Samoan coach Matt Parish is blessed for depth in the forwards with the team that went down to Fiji last October featuring the likes of Sam Kasiano, Junior Paulo, Leeson Ah Mau, Sauaso Sue, Sam Lisone and James Gavet, all of whom have started the 2017 season in fine form for their respective clubs.
Taking on a Sharks forward pack boasting the likes of Paul Gallen, Andrew Fifita, Wade Graham and Luke Lewis will give Vaivai the perfect platform from which to state his case.
A highly regarded prospect when he joined the Knights in 2014, Vaivai knows how easily the opportunity to play in the NRL can be taken away and is adopting a mindset to play every game as though it could be his last.
"I just tried to play it like it was my last game," he said of his Titans debut.
"You never know when your last game is so I just tried to play as hard as I could and hopefully my name was called up the next week.
"That's how I'm doing it, I'm just going week by week and see how everything goes."
Playing during Anzac Round could provide additional motivation for Vaivai who played for Burleigh in their traditional Anzac Day clash with the PNG Hunters last year.
Born in Samoa but raised in New Zealand, Vaivai has spent time participating in Army camps in Canungra west of the Gold Coast the past two years and said he has a whole new appreciation for what Anzac Day stands for.
"I'm a proud Kiwi and to know that the Australians and New Zealanders fought together side by side, you get that feeling, that you're with your brothers next to each other and you're going against the opposition team and you want to put your body on the line every time," Vaivai said.
"It's a bigger occasion here than it is in New Zealand but when you hear the stories when the Army boys do come in and they're telling us how much they've sacrificed for our privileges now, it's kind of a surreal feeling.
"You just want to play your hardest because they've given their lives up for us."