Timani answers the Wallabies' call

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

When Michael Cheika named his squad for the June Test series, he called some players who missed out to explain the decision. Lopeti Timani was one of those and the Rebels utility forward remembers the conversation clearly.

“When he announced the team he called me that night to explain I need to improve my game a bit more and he wanted a bit more impact off me on the field,” he said.

“He told me if I keep doing what I'm doing I probably will get a chance to make the squad in this Bledisloe time or maybe at the end of the year.”

There was a different phone call this time around but it wasn’t from Michael Cheika, it was from Lopeti’s brother Sitaleki, based in France.

Sitaleki had seen the latest Wallabies squad on the internet and got to Lopeti before he had even seen the news himself.

“I didn't know I was part of the team, he found out on the internet first,” he said.

“He called me and told me and I was in a bit of shock.”

Inclusion in a Bledisloe squad would be vindication for a decision to stay in Australia when Sitaleki went to Montpellier, leaving the Waratahs where they had played together.

“I was struggling in my first two years but I enjoy it now - because the lifestyle and thing is a bit different to where I came from,” he said.

“I just missed the family and everything changed. It took a bit of time to get used to being away from home, I guess.

It's been a long road to the Test squad. Photo: ARU Media/Stu Walmsley“My family's still back in Tonga so two years ago when my brother - when we both played for the Tahs he was my only family in Australia and it was kind of hard when he was moving away.

“When I got the call up the first week I was very excited because I decided two years ago  that I wanted to stay in Australia to play for the Wallabies and improve my game.”

When Timani first encountered Wallabies coach Cheika at the Waratahs  he was a full-time number eight, but in the two years since he has found a groove in the second row at the Rebels.

Despite his own position switches, it’s a backrow legend that Timani has always wanted to emulate.

“George Smith, he's my idol,” he said.

“When I moved to Australia and started playing Super Rugby and I played against him and guys you see on TV... I think it’s like a dream come true.

Lopeti Timani is relishing his opportunity. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyTImani marvelled at Smith’s unpredictability , though there are some elements of the 111-Test veteran’s game that he doesn’t think he’ll ever quite mate

“He’s just a legend on the field in games,” he said.

“He'll always do something different even as a number seven, he’ll always do a bit of kicking and just use  his skills ,passing and stuff like that.

“I don't really know how to kick but I'm working on that.”

His family are currently in France visiting Sitaleki for his birthday but if Lopeti gets a chance to make his Wallabies debut this series, he can probably expect a few more phone calls.