Column: Samu Kerevi arrived on Australian shores on a bridging visa for refugees and was given clothes from the Salvation Army.
Up until then, he had grown up with his grandparents and moved from Fiji to the Solomon Islands before a coup resulted in his family settling in Australia.
Were he to have stayed in Fiji, he admits he likely would have followed a similar path to many in his family and ended up in prison.
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Instead, a seven-year-old boy arrived in Brisbane and called his adopted nation home.
Now, Rugby Australia must throw open the chequebook, lure the nation’s best player back from Japan and ask him to lead the Wallabies not just to next year’s World Cup and the British and Irish Lions series but to the 2027 World Cup, too.
RA has the chance to make a generational change by handing the captaincy to a player revered across the world.
While the governing body has several pressing issues to address – investing in the sport’s grassroots, expanding the game beyond private schools and paying attention to women’s rugby – it can take a giant step forward by encouraging Kerevi to return home and handing him the captaincy.
The Wallabies currently have a stopgap captain in James Slipper. The prop is a man of integrity, a Wallaby of more than 100 Tests, and someone who has enjoyed the highs and lows of professional sport and life.
But the 33-year-old, who has filled the shoes of Michael Hooper since the Wallabies’ longest- serving captain stepped aside to focus on himself, should not lead Australia beyond this year’s Spring Tour.
That mantle must go to Kerevi, who is currently injured and missed the entire Rugby Championship, when his contract with Suntory expires in May.
It is understood RA has already expressed interest in re-signing him, offering about $800,000 – the same amount they dangled in front of him in 2019.
Unfortunately, that figure is less than half what cashed-up clubs in France and Japan are offering, with Kerevi set to become one of the game’s highest earners should he remain overseas.
RA must get back to the drawing board, make him the nation’s highest-paid player and ask him to lead the Wallabies forward.
He would become the third player of Pasifika heritage to lead the Wallabies following George Smith and Will Genia.
But those two greats of Australian rugby were asked to lead the nation when others were missing.
Kerevi’s ascension to the top would accurately represent those who play the game, with just over 44 per cent of this season’s Super Rugby players and 45.9 per cent of the Wallabies playing group of Pasifika heritage.
He is not just the country’s best players – one of a precious few who commands a spot in the Wallabies’ starting side – but is also respected by the world’s rugby community on and off the field.
Kerevi not only has swagger, he is also humble.
While the 29-year-old wears big hats and Nike shoes with long socks, when Kerevi talks, people listen.
It is only when you hear Kerevi recite his upbringing, and how he brought joy to the family name in Fiji, that you get a greater understanding of the man.
He sends large sums of money back to family members in Fiji while also filling villages with groceries when he returns home.
Articulate and generous, Kerevi is also a larrikin and someone who understands his place in society. He has been a leader for years, having been handed the captaincy of the Queensland Reds as a 23-year-old in 2017.
When he was asked to take on the responsibilities, he questioned whether he was worthy of such a role. He let his actions do the talking on the field.
Few remember, but Kerevi was also the Wallabies’ vice-captain at the 2019 World Cup. When the Wallabies were knocked out, he cried for his nation.
He did so again at the Tokyo Games when the opportunity to play for Australia at the Olympics presented itself.
Not once has he ever taken anything for granted.
Perhaps those characteristics were forged during the difficulties he encountered as a child, where he was separated from his parents and brothers as a child.
He is a man the Wallabies and Australia can get behind because more than being one of the game’s best on the field, he wants to be remembered for his deeds off it.