TIKIKO Noke has sacrificed a lot to achieve his dream of becoming a Bati.
He had a tough upbringing with his seven siblings as his parents struggled to make ends meet and provide the best for their children.
At 16, he lost a tooth in a match against Saru Dragons in his debut year in the Fiji National Rugby League Vodafone-sponsored premier competition.
This year Tiks, as he is affectionately known to friends, dropped out of school to dedicate his time to rugby league and vie for a place in the Vodafone Fiji Bati team for the Rugby League World Cup which starts at the end of next month in England.
On Thursday night, his prayers were answered after coach Rick Stone named him as one of two local-based players in the national side.
Nabua Broncos centre Ilisavani Jegesa is the other local player named in the Fiji team dominated by National Rugby League players.
"All I can say it's a dream come true for me," Noke, who turned 19 last week, said.
"Being the youngest in the team is a bonus and being part of this Fiji Bati side is an honour for me. I thank God for everything that I have achieved through Him and my parents for supporting my dreams."
For Noke, who hails from Lomanikoro in Rewa, the loss of that tooth was the turning point in his life.
He became stronger and more determined to achieve his goals.
"It was in 2010 when I was 16 and playing in my first year in the premier grade (for Lautoka Crushers). We were up against Saru Dragons which is one of the toughest teams and I didn't realise when that tooth got knocked out," the now Makoi Bulldogs prop said.
"When I went to drink water during the break, I felt the pain and I started counting my teeth from the back and then realised one was missing.
"It's a good experience for me and I certainly don't want to lose anymore (teeth) but I guess that incident inspired me to work harder towards my goal and achieve this dream of making the Fiji Bati team."
Noke thanked his mentor and former Fiji Bati Mesake Navugona, who is also the Fiji Bati team manager, for his guidance.
"I want to dedicate my selection to one of my mentors, Mesake Navugona who is celebrating his birthday today (yesterday). He has been a great inspiration to me."
The former Lautoka Central College student said he was looking forward to rubbing shoulders with Fiji Bati skipper Petero Civoniceva and other NRL stars in the team. He hopes to secure a professional rugby league contract to help give his family a better life.