When Sera Naiqama started playing footy, she was trying to show her brothers that anything they could do, she could do too.
Given her brothers are NRL and Fiji rugby league stars Wes and Kevin Naiqama, Sera had her work cut out.
But given they were both fleet-footed wingers and centres, that’s where she started her journey too. Albeit in a different code.
“I started playing sevens so when you start playing sevens and you come to the 15s game, you think I am either a winger or a fullback,” Naiqama said.
“You don’t have the confidence to take the ball up into contact but then one season we were short of a no.8 and my coach came up just before the game started and said “Sara, you are going to be our no.8 today”.
“I was like: ‘what’s that? I have no idea what that is.’
“Then from no.8 I transitioned into the second row and then they had me jumping in the lineouts. And it kind of just grew on me. Now that I am in the second row I go “this is so my position”.
“I am far from a back now. I am definitely a forward.”
And a mighty strong forward, too. After climbing the ranks through Sydney University and NSW in the Super W, Naiqama will this week join the Wallaroos in her first ever Test squad.
She set out to match her brothers and has done so, rising to the top of her chosen code.
The Wallaroos take on Japan in Newcastle on Saturday, in the first of a two-Test series.
The second Test is at North Sydney Oval a week later, and Naiqama’s family will no doubt be on hand to cheer on Sera.
That’s what they’ve done as a family since growing up in southern Sydney.
“My family and I, we always grew up in Rockdale and my brothers play rugby league so we were connected to the rugby league club, which was the Arncliffe Scots,” Naiqama said in the final “Walking with Wallaroos” profile.
“Having sport in our lives for so long it was kind of inevitable that I would end up in a contact sport myself. We spent a lot of time growing up there so a lot of my childhood revolved around being around a footy field, but to support the boys. I never really saw myself as the one they would one day support.
“But when the opportunity came up in 2012 to start playing rugby in school I just wanted to get plugged in so I could show my brothers I could be as rough as them, and potentially add to the game as well.
“I am so glad I did because I look back now and I don’t think I would have tried the game otherwise, when I started in school.”
Naiqama progressed to 15s – and into the forward pack – and after being a strong performer for Sydney Uni, she made her debut for NSW in the Super W this year
The Waratahs won a second straight Super W title and Naiqama was rewarded for a powerful season with selection in Dwayne Nestor’s Wallaroos squad.
“Just recently I received the news from Dwayne that I had been selected to tour with the Wallaroos for the Japan series,” Naiqama said.
“So it’s super exciting because I have yet to make my debut for Australia but the fact I could potentially be doing that in the next two weeks is really exciting.”
Juggling footy and life at university – she works in events at Sydney Uni and also studies marketing – Naiqama has been getting up while it is still dark to attend training.
It’s tough but it’s also a dream come true.
“I live at Campbelltown, I am up at 4.30am to get to training at 6am,” she said.
“But as Emily Robsinon said even though the early mornings are hard and the late nights are hard, we are privileged to be where we are and to do what we do.”