“I believe in each of the guys that we can beat New Zealand,” said Daugunu from Auckland. “I don’t think anything is impossible. If you believe and work hard, we can do it. ”
Four years ago, Wallabies trainer Michael Cheika was in a rebuilding phase. He bled three debutants – Dane Haylett-Petty, Samu Kerevi and Rory Arnold – for the first Test against England in 2016. Around the same time, Daugunu was a police officer in Fiji with two failed Australian visa applications, which increased his chances of a career in rugby .
Daugunu’s journey from the city of Labasa to the international arena is certainly the road less traveled. Lipo, as his friends and family call him, lost his mother to kidney problems when he was seven and moved in with his aunt and uncle. As a child, he played a number of sports but was excellent in both football and rugby and high jump.
History has it that after the Reds trained a few years ago, an impromptu penalty shoot-out took place under the Ballymore goal posts. Nobody knew Daugunu’s football background – he toured New Zealand with Fiji’s U17s in 2011 before being selected for the U23s – but for some reason he got thrown in and turned a few heads saving every kick.
I thought about staying a while but my aunt said I should go. The next day I went to the police station to tell them to release me. «
But rugby was his love and in his blood: his grandfather Esira represented Fiji in the 1970s and his uncle Sailosi Naiteqe defeated his country in six tests.
Daugunu spent six months training as a police officer, but received some unexpected news two weeks after starting a night shift.
“I thought about staying a while, but my aunt said I should go. The next day I went to the police station to tell them to release me. I gave them everything I had. I actually missed my flight to Australia. ‚‚
Daugunu says Fiji didn’t want to fire him from his sevens program, but he had made up his mind that a Wallabies jersey was what he wanted. He arrived at West Bulldogs in Brisbane ahead of Queensland’s Premier Rugby season, hoping to get a deal with the Reds.
“In 2017 I went to a Reds game at Suncorp Stadium and told myself I was going to play at Suncorp in 2018,” says Daugunu. “I did it next year. ”
He made his super rugby debut in 2018 but wasn’t able to play for the Wallabies until December last year when he signed a deal with the Reds and Rugby Australia until the end of 2023. A three-year $ 2 million offer was on the table to fly to Japan, but Daugunu wanted to make his family proud and play for the Wallabies.
Tuqiri is happy that Daugunu has found his way to Australia and describes his debut as “sensational”. “His footwork in tight spaces to stick his head through is invaluable against the All Blacks,” he said. “It’s a great story. ”
Daugunu’s family will watch today and be full of pride. “After the game [last Sunday] They sent me a video and it was a full house – people in the kitchen, some watching outside, ”he says. “They were happy and cheered Australia. ”
Tom Decent ist Journalist bei The Sydney Morning Herald