Fakatava brought to tears with All Blacks call up

Smiling Folau

It had always been his dream to play for the All Blacks, and hearing his name read out, he cried for a minute.

 

"It was the longest cry I have done in a long time. It was like a happy cry, unreal, overwhelmed, because I knew how my family would feel," he said.

 

He was with his partner, and she was crying as well.

 

It was the same when speaking to his family in Tonga. There was hardly any talking, only crying and praying, he said.

 

"We couldn't believe it. They are so proud, my family and friends, and they can't wait to see me out there in the black jersey."

 

Fakatava said at one stage, he wasn't going to watch the announcement, but his partner talked him around, and he had an attitude of 'if it happens, it happens'.

After injury frustrations with a knee last year, he was thankful for the support of his family and the Highlanders' organisation. All Blacks' coach Ian Foster rang him and encouraged him to work hard in rehabilitating and to come back strong. Rather than return to the Hawke's Bay, he stayed in Dunedin. He was grateful for the support he got.

 

He was disappointed the injury prevented him from making a bid for the All Blacks last year, but throughout his rehabilitation the goal of making that next level was a big driver.

 

Fakatava also appreciated making the squad with his mentor Aaron Smith.

 

"Coming from Tonga, Aaron was my idol and coming to the Highlanders and training with him, learning from him, he's a legend," he said.

 

They were both competitive but had pushed each other to be their best.

 

Smith was the best in the world, but was still responsive to Fakatava's challenge.

 

"I told him, 'I am coming for you', and he knows I am putting a little pressure on him. At the same time, that is how rugby players compete with each other to be the best that we can be, and especially for the team.

 

"He's the man, he always looks after us young players," he said.

Smith phoned him when he was selected, and they had yahooed before he told Fakatava he was proud of him, and was looking forward to going to the camp in Mt Maunganui with him.

 

"I can't wait to keep learning," he said.

 

Fakatava said he had left others to sort his eligibility for selection, so that he could concentrate on playing well for the Highlanders.

 

It didn't matter whether he was eligible if he wasn't performing at his best to show he was good enough to be in the squad.

 

"This isn't the end, it's just the start and I'll keep training hard, harder than Super Rugby level," he said.

 

"I'm looking forward to seeing what they want me to do and to build my game to another level."

 

Selection was also a reward for moving to New Zealand as a 16-year-old. It involved a lot of hard work and sacrifice to succeed.

 

When he first came to New Zealand to attend Hastings Boys' High School, he was the youngest in his family, and homesickness was an issue for him. But his family had given him motivation to keep going with his rugby.

 

"It's always tough for us coming from the islands, but it is up to us to put in the hard work, and the sacrifices, to be in this top level. It's unreal, I'm speechless right now," he said.

 

Language had been an early issue for him, especially as a halfback who needed to be able to talk a lot. He had support from a Tongan family who had looked after him well, and helped him learn English.

 

Now he's not only realised his dream, he's talked eloquently about what it all means to him and his family.

LATEST NEWS

View all