A balance of speed, strength and fancy footwork are all the basic ingredients to make a superb rugby player and the Manu Sevens star, Phoenix Hunapo-Nofoa, has plenty of that.
Aside from his famous sharp (Fijian-like) footwork and his play-maker style of rugby, his try-celebrations also set him apart from the rest.
The young star from Afega grew up in Henderson West Auckland with parents Moana Hunapo and Dave Nofoa. It is there where Phoenix found his love for Rugby.
He started off playing touch rugby in New Zealand which he says helped develop his core skills (Passing, stepping and running) and then straight out of school he joined the Warriors development squad.
The young star told Samoa Observer of how he grew up loving the game.
“As soon as I could walk my father got me into the sport so it’s safe to say I grew up playing rugby. I played club rugby for Waitemata at west Auckland and I’ve stayed there till this day,” he said.
“Rugby has been a huge part of my life.”
According to Phoenix his main motivation is his family who had showed him much support.
“I was fortunate enough to play cream level rugby with my dad which was the highlight of my career so far besides getting in the Manu and whatnot, it was still a major achievement to play alongside my dad,” he said.
“Dad was a great rugby player in the past and he sacrificed a lot to make sure we were well looked after and that was my main motivation to get into rugby.”
For Phoenix, his climb to national honours is all about giving back to the ones he loves.
“Basically I wanted to give back to my parents, family and friends who have always supported me and that is a motivation in itself,” he said
“I try my best to get better and better which in term will allow me to help my team move forward towards the end goal which is the Olympics this year.”
But right now Phoenix has dedicated all that he has to make Samoa proud.
“It is a huge honor and I cherish every moment I put on that blue jersey with the boys,” he said.
“Every time I’m on that field I make sure I don’t disappoint Samoa and I understand the importance of taking the country’s name with me.”
According to the young star his biggest rugby role model is All Blacks Aaron Smith for his dedication off and on the field which pushes him to work just as hard.
Although Phoenix hasn’t spent much time in Samoa he has already adopted the heart of a Samoan.
“The only time I’ve been in Samoa was when I made the team which was back in October and I have been here ever since and I have enjoyed it… it’s good to get some heat,” he said.
“I wouldn’t give up my time in Samoa for the world.”
Phoenix continued with asking members of the public to have patience in the Manu 7’s squad.
“The Manu 7’s team is doing a lot of things behind the scenes and working hard, I want to just urge the public and the fans to bear with us at this stage of rebuilding,” he said.
“We are getting better as you can see in Vancouver and Vegas. Hopefully with a bit of consistency we will get to the level Samoa ought to be.”
The young star concluded with a message for the rugby younglings of Samoa.
“For all the young people I would say just to keep working hard and chase your dreams,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter how hard it seems or how far you are from achieving them it will come one day as long as you keep working hard and have the right attitude.”