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First for Fiji

Elenoa Baselala
Wednesday, November 08, 2017

NOT every 19-year-old gets the call to represent his country at the Rugby League World Cup.

For Salesi Junior Faingaa, his call came only two hours before Fiji took on Wales last Sunday at the 1300 SMILES Stadium in Townsville, Queensland.

"I was pretty shocked and excited but the highlight for that game for me was the jersey presented. It is tradition for the side to have a special presentation for someone making a debut for Fiji.

"The whole team gathered and Wes Naiqama presented my jersey."

Faingaa replaced Brayden Wiliame who was ruled out because of medical reasons. And he made the most of the opportunity scoring a try and even drawing praises from coach Mick Potter after the 72-6 victory.

"It was the best feeling to be representing Fiji and to even score a try."

In the lead up to the RLWC, Faingaa said he was blessed to be part of the team and would just learn as much as could.

"As a prop, he did not think he would have a chance to play considering the experienced players in the Fiji Bati side."

Faingaa's break came almost a year ago when he was signed up for the Parramatta Eels under-20 side.

If it wasn't for rugby league, Faingaa believes he could have been in jail or suffering the same fate as a friend who died from a gunshot.

"I thought about the future and thought I could make it better," he said.

"I thought it was fun and games but at the end of the day, you realise that only your family will stand by you. If I hadn't been called out, I would have been on the streets doing stupid things," the Campbelltown resident said.

Faingaa has maternal links to Vanuabalavu, Lau and his father is from Tonga but he says there is no question who he would choose to play for at the Rugby League World Cup.

As the youngest team member, Faingaa's role is to take the Fiji flag with him wherever the team goes.

Meanwhile, the Vodafone Fiji Bati side arrived in Canberra on Monday night and had light session at the Northbourne Oval grounds.

Fiji plays Italy this Friday and unless it is beaten by 46 points, it (Fiji) has qualified for the quarter-finals.

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