Rugby star comes home

By Deidre Fanene ,

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IN SAMOA: Australian Brumbies Nigel Ah Wong with his relative Christian Scanlan at the Samoa Tourism Authority in Apia.

IN SAMOA: Australian Brumbies Nigel Ah Wong with his relative Christian Scanlan at the Samoa Tourism Authority in Apia.

One of the most promising players to emerge from the Brumbies set up during this Super rugby season is glad to be home.

Twenty-six-year-old winger, Nigel Ah Wong, who hails from Alafua and Vaivase, is in the country to visit family.

“I try to and come at least once a year to have a bit of down time and also to visit family for at least a week and spend time with my Lam family in Alafua,” he said.

Nigel is the eldest of five children of Fa’amata and Carmelita Ah Wong. Delighted to be back, Nigel said it has always been a passion of his to play rugby.

“I started playing from a very young age and just fell in love with the game. I wanted to make a living out of it so it has always been a passion of mine and it was something that I fell in love with naturally.”

Nigel comes from a big rugby family which boasts names such as Ben Lam, Tain Lam, Pat Lam and his uncle Namulauulu Alama Ieremia.

Born in Wellington, Nigel was raised in Brisbane, Australia. He said his parents are his biggest supporters.

 “They have always been very good supporters,” he said. “They helped pay for a lot of my rugby trips and buy my rugby gear when I need them.”

Nigel’s journey has not all been smooth sailing.

“In the beginning of last year I broke my arm. That’s probably the only physical set back that I have had during my career but you know rugby players go through many challenges like training and selection and what not.”

Nigel said there is a strong Samoan influence on the Brumbies.

“There’s a big Pacific island presence especially Samoans, there’s a lot of Samoan players and it's nice to have a lot of those influences around me, especially our senior players and our co-captain, Christian Lealiifano,” he said.

“The Samoan culture is a very strong culture in our club and I think it helps influence our club in a way that makes it a family-orientated club.

“[And] that has helped us produce the results on the field.”

Looking back to where he started, Nigel is a grateful man.

 “Personally I do see the sacrifices that my parents made to move overseas and I want to try to make the most of that sacrifice and the best we can do is find something that we are passionate about and make a living from it,” he said.

“So in a way my drive to becoming a professional rugby player was to see the sacrifice of my parents and make the most of it.

“I am proud of being a Samoan and I wouldn’t imagine growing up in any other family.

“My parents have done so much for me and my extended family also so I wouldn’t change it for anything in this world and I am so proud that I grew up in a Samoan family.”

What advice would he give to young aspiring players?

 “We need to have the mental capacity as well as the physical capacity to be a rugby player. If I was to advise the young ones out there who want to pursue anything in life, it would be to find something that you are passionate about and just work towards achieving that goal and you will never have to work a day in your life because you are doing what you love.” As for his favourite player, Nigel said it is Tana Umaga.

 “Firstly he’s Samoan. As a professional rugby player, I envisioned myself that I could one day have the same job as him. I know we are from different countries but it motivated me to think that it is possible for a Samoan kid to live his dreams.”

Looking to the future, Nigel just wants to continue to play well.

 “I’m spending the off season in Japan so my goal right now is to perform well in the Japanese top league,” he said.

“Obviously everyone’s goal is to play at the top level but I guess the only thing that I have control of right now is my performance and if I keep performing well then one day the opportunity to play in the Australian team might arise and I will grab it with both hands.” Nigel Ah Wong returns to Australia on Saturday.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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