You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Koroibete reflects on journey to Wallabies

AAP logoAAP 19/11/2016 Joe Barton

When a nervous Marika Koroibete first linked with the Wallabies ahead of the Spring Tour, he arrived with a knot in the pit in his stomach.

And in his first training session under Michael Cheika, the former Melbourne Storm NRL star split open the top of a finger which required seven stitches.

His reintroduction to the 15-a-side game was off to a rocky start.

But given the struggles he overcame to make it in rugby league, he insists the journey switching back has been comparitively smooth sailing.

Koroibete's position in Cheika's 32-man Spring Tour squad had been strongly questioned given he'd yet to play one second of professional rugby union - having joined 26 days after an NRL grand final loss with the Storm.

Upon meeting new teammates, Koroibete admitted he thought his rushed call-up had been "a bit unfair" on some more qualified candidates.

"My first day, I felt a bit awkward. Straight from rugby league into rugby," Koroibete told AAP in Paris.

"I didn't feel well and maybe (that it was) a bit unfair, coming straight into the squad.

"But the way the boys have welcomed me, I can feel the love in the team.

"They've made me feel more comfortable."

And any uncomfortable moments experienced on the flight to Europe would pale into insignificance when put next to the life-changing transition the then 18-year-old made when he arrived in Australia to play for the Wests Tigers five years ago.

A candid Koroibete speaks of sleeping on the floor in his first year at the NRL club, and struggling with the culture shock as he adapted to life in Sydney while living with the elderly Lebanese couple who the Tigers had set him up with.

He made the move from Fiji to the Tigers at the same times as Taqele Naiyaravoro, who he reunited with as Wallabies roommates in Paris last week.

"We struggled, but we struggled together," Koroibete said of his early days in Australia alongside Naiyaravoro.

"Back at home we'd eat daal with rice and a lot of vegetables, from the bush.

"They cooked us Lebanese food, but we're not used to it.

"You send money back home, and then wouldn't have money to buy our food.

"I just feel emotional seeing him playing well in Super Rugby and making his debut for the Wallabies.

"I was so proud of him. I know if he can make it then I can make it there too.

"That's why I won't give up."

When he considered leaving the Storm for the Rebels, Koroibete made one important phone call - to his good friend Taqele.

"I know you'll kill it," Koroibete was told.

And now the 24-year-old will get his chance.

Koroibete is expected to make his Australian rugby debut in a developmental side to face the French Barbarians in Bordeaux on Thursday, and the prolific tryscorer believes he's ready.

"I've still got more to learn but I'm working hard," Koroibete said.

"And if Cheika gives me an opportunity, I'll grab it with both hands. It only comes once.

"But if I'm given an opportunity I'll walk up to Izzy (fellow NRL convert Israel Folau) and ask him as many questions as I can. And I'll go in there and do my best."

While Koroibete has firmly settled his young family in Melbourne his heart still lies in the small village of Naraiyawa in central Fiji.

Koroibete married wife Emma, mother of his 17-month-old son Iliesa, in the village following the NRL grand final.

Little has changed since his days as a tearaway youngster playing in the back field, imitating his idol the former Crusaders powerhouse winger Marika Vunibaka.

"Because my name is Marika, I always wanted to be Marika Vunibaka - he was someone I used to look up to," Koroibete said.

"But I never dreamed I'd come this far."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon