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League-loving Wallaby Tui eyeing Test spot

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/06/2017 Melissa Woods
Lukhan Tui. © Scott Barbour/Getty Images Lukhan Tui.

Ask Wallabies bolter Lukhan Tui who his favourite footballer is and he reels off NSW Origin star Andrew Fifita, Storm enforcer Jesse Bromwich or winger Manu Vatuvei from his beloved Warriors.

Born in Auckland and raised in Sydney's south-western suburbs, his goal was to play alongside those idols but instead Tui has landed in Camp Wallaby, in Melbourne, ahead of Australia's first Test of the year against Fiji.

The 20-year-old lock has had a meteoric rise through the rugby ranks after only switching codes three years ago, signed by Queensland from under the noses of the Waratahs, after a brief stint with Randwick.

He's only played four Super Rugby games but did enough to convince Wallabies coach Michael Cheika he was worth taking a punt on.

Weighing in at 121kg and 198cm tall with size 19 shoes, Tui played prop for the Western Suburbs' SG Ball team, harbouring ambitions of an NRL career.

"Definitely that was the goal, to play professional rugby league, but another opportunity came up and I was lucky enough to be able to take it," Tui said.

"And now with the Wallabies; getting to hang out with some of the boys I've watched on TV and just being around a high level professional environment, it's pretty surreal."

He credits his progress to Reds coaches Nick Stiles and former All Blacks hardman Brad Thorn, who himself started in rugby league.

"Stilesy put a lot of trust in us young boys from the beginning of the year and it's given us a chance to play with some experienced boys and learn a lot," Tui said.

While still learning the intricacies of being a second-rower, Tui wants to one day make the transition to blindside flanker, similar to fellow Wallabies squad member Lopeti Timani.

Tui said he wasn't sure if he was a real chance for Test selection, but intended to make the most of his time with Australia's elite players regardless.

"At the moment I'm just trying to soak up as much information as I can from the boys," Tui said.

"I'd love to get to play but otherwise I will just keep working hard."

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