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Another Tongan eager to be a Wallaby

  
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11/07/2011
By AAP .


Softly spoken second-row hitman Sitaleki Timani has the chance to fulfil a dream and follow in the footsteps of Australia's Tongan-bred Qantas Wallabies.

The strapping 203cm Waratahs lock was one of seven uncapped players named on Sunday in a 40-man squad for Australia's five pre-World Cup Tests.

While Nathan Sharpe and James Horwill appear to be the favourites for the lock spots, Timani, Reds youngster Rob Simmons and Waratahs veteran Dan Vickerman are among those also vying for a position.

After being a peripheral player at the Force and Brumbies, 24-year-old Timani flourished at NSW this year.

He became a fixture in the injury-ravaged Waratahs lineup in the latter part of the Super campaign and relished an enforcer-type role, although on a couple of memorable occasions, he took out some of his teammates.

"Towards the end of the year they gave me more opportunities and more games and I got more confident to play my game," Timani said.

Born in Tonga, Timani got a scholarship to Auckland Grammar School, but ultimately ended up in Australia after unsuccessfully trying out for the New Zealand Schoolboys team.

Growing up, Timani followed the Wallabies, especially their players of Tongan heritage.

"Watching George Smith, Mark Gerrard ... I followed the Wallabies when I grew up because a few Tongan players, like Toutai Kefu as well, played for the Wallabies," Timani said.

Tongan officials were keen to secure his services, with his older brother and fellow lock Sione, 26, having already played three Tests for that nation, but Timani said choosing Australia wasn't a difficult decision.

"I got a phone call on Thursday night, from (Wallabies' coach) Robbie Deans, so It wasn't too hard, I came over straight away," Timani said.

"It means a lot. I came down here (to Australia) five years ago and dreamt of being a Wallaby and five years later, here I am. It's a dream come true."

Timani's first Test opportunity could come as soon as Sunday against Samoa in Sydney.

 

Also in line for a debut is Rebels halfback Nick Phipps.

With Luke Burgess injured, Phipps could share time with first-choice halfback Will Genia, though he didn't allow himself to dwell on that possibility on Monday.

If selected, he will continue a fine Phipps tradition as his grandfather and great uncle, both called Jim, played for the Wallabies.