Jordan Uelese is the newest hooker in the Wallabies squad and the hulking youngster says a dose of tough love propelled him into national calculations.
The Melbourne Rebels rake can’t remember a time rugby wasn’t in his life, the second-youngest of five boys, he spent his childhood playing rugby and then watching his brothers and father Sekaki play, with the latter only giving the game away at 47.
Even now, Sekaki keeps him on his toes, calling him during his first Test camp, to offer some supportive advice.
“I just got off the phone from him just before, he was just saying 'keep your head down, work hard, be humble’,” Uelese said.
Uelese and his youngest brother pitted against their elder in hallway ‘knee rugby’, a contest that has clearly sparked his fearlessness.
“It used to be me and my little brother vs one of the older brothers,” he said.
“We used to be the punching bags. I guess those were the lessons we learned growing up, just tough love.”
Though those competitions were ferocious, it’s his brothers who became Uelese’s greatest guides as he worked his way up the rugby pathway.
“Now that we've grown up a bit, they've eased off a bit and started to mentor us, trying to push away from the mistakes they made growing up and leading us towards the better pathways in terms of staying away from the bad stuff and trying to achieve my dream of being a professional footy player," he said.
Uelese still lives with his parents in Melbourne, the only one of his siblings still at home, grateful he has been able to stay in his own backyard and live out his dream.
“I literally jump on the train 30 minutes down the road, jump off and I'm at training,” he said.
“I jump on another train come home. It's pretty much what I've done all my life - I went to school in Toorak, which is in the city and it's pretty much I've been doing since I was year nine.”
Uelese’s progress had caught Michael Cheika’s eye this year and also gave outgoing captain Stephen Moore the ease of mind to step away from the Wallabies this season, knowing the no. 2 spot will be in good hands for years to come.
“He's (Uelese) a big unit and looks like he's got physically the right capabilities to play at this level,” Moore said.
“He seems like a really sharp kid and he's really keen to learn, he's been asking lots of questions and it's been really interesting - it's taken me back to when I first started, I think I was around the same age, 20 or 21 and I got my first taste of a Wallaby camp.
“It's great to see now young players like himself are coming through and you'd like to think he'll be thereabouts as he continues his career.”
Uelese was thrown into the thick of things straight away, with an injured Tolu latu missing the early parts of the Newcastle camp, a move that gave him his own pinch yourself moment alongside Moore.
“I feel like I've been a bit more involved (with Latu injured), we just had a lineout session and I was throwing with Stephen Moore, I was a bit starstruck, I was thinking 'Woah',” he said.
“I think you get to learn that these boys, the big household names they are, they're pretty down to earth and they really have taken me under their wing.”