Alaalatoa learning off Wallabies hero

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

When Allan Alaalatoa was a teenager, he saw Sekope Kepu in Campsie and says he would have been one of the few to recognise the Test forward in Sydney's west.

This Saturday, the pair could be part of the same Wallabies outfit, preparing to take on the All Blacks in the opening Bledisloe Test in Sydney.

The Brumbies prop was too scared to speak to Kepu when he turned up at Wallabies camp in June, after returning from Bordeaux, though it didn’t take long for that to change.

Sekope Kepu is back in Wallabies camp. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley“When he was playing I was a young lad and I happened to see him in Campsie in my home suburb but I was the only one that I knew for rugby union because everyone is into rugby league,” he said.

“To see him playing and watching him I always really admired the way he played and the way he approached every game and it's an honour to be in the same environment as he is.

“The last camp, I was probably a bit starstruck, so I didn't really want to talk to him.

"He sat down with me and said I could go to him with anything and he'll help me.

“That's something I really appreciate.”

The Wallabies forwards are working on their attack. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyThe familial culture of the Wallabies outfit is something Alaalatoa relishes, having grown up in his rugby-mad Samoan family, with his dad, Vili having represented Samoa and brother Michael, currently playing for the Crusaders.

“It's very important because I like to feel comfortable off the field, before  get on the field because if I'm comfortable with someone off the field and I’m able to be honest with them then I'll be able to bust my arse for them on the field,” he said.

“For me, what I do on the field involves a lot of respect for the people I have around me and I think that the way I build that is from off the field.”

The closest Alaalatoa has gotten to a Bledisloe Cup match was his involvement in the 2014 curtain-raiser match, playing for NRC side, UC Vikings in Brisbane, where the teams stayed on to watch the main event.

As this year’s opener creeps closer, Alaalatoa says he can’t help but reflect his childhood where he would watch his father head out to Bledisloe Cups and just wish he could be there too.

“I keep thinking back to when I wish I could be at the game with Dad but the tickets were too dear to go and when I think about it now it's just a huge blessing. “

The Wallabies will have plenty of competition for scrum spots. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyWhether he plays this time around or is a spectator once more, Alaalatoa will cherish every moment, a mentality that has been drilled into him by his parents.

“I was playing second grade Souths and my old man used to always say just appreciate the opportunity and then from playing second grade Souths I got a contract with the Brumbies,” he said.

“I would never have thought it but I think it mainly comes back to just appreciating every moment of the game because you never know what could come out of it.”

It only takes a trip back to Campsie for Alaalatoa to have his feet firmly brought back to the ground.

“I try to get home when I can because you're at the highest level here and everything's given to you," he said.

“When you go back home, it's just back to washing dishes and hanging the washing out, which is something that I grew up doing.

“So, when I come here I'd always appreciate what's been given to me and every opportunity that I get, I take it.”