Kepu back where he belongs

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There are few places Sekope Kepu would rather be on a Saturday afternoon than down at Coogee Oval with his family taking in some club rugby.

Kepu has much to thank Sydney’s Shute Shield for, cutting his teeth with Randwick before earning a Super Rugby contract with the Waratahs.

“I really, really enjoyed my time playing for Randwick, it was somewhere - I really enjoyed the free-flowing rugby that Randwick love to play and I think it was a good thing for me to do three years in club when I first moved over and then finally got my opportunities at the Waratahs,” he says.

“That's something I really enjoyed and when I think back it's some of the best footy that I've enjoyed.

Sometimes coming through the system and working, grafting out those hard years make you appreciate playing at the top level.

“Different guys have different avenues but I think for me it's really satisfying for me to see guys like that [come through].”

Kepu believes his time in club rugby set him up for long-term success, a system he still thinks should be a priority in Australia.
“I'm a big believer in grassroots rugby. I think it's something that we can still get better at in Australia,”- Sekope Kepu
“That's where the talent is and that's, guys like to get around and play alongside their mates - three o'clock in the afternoon [at] Coogee oval, you couldn't beat that on a nice sunny day.

“Those are the games I used to love playing and I think I can see it starting to come back and every Saturday I get a chance I like to get down to Randwick there and watch the boys.

“You've got a lot of talent and a lot of guys in the club rugby system that we can still, if the club rugby system is strong, then it can always filter into our Super Rugby teams.

“I remember when I first arrived teams were picking players from the Shute Shield comp and it's a stepping stone and a platform for the Super Rugby teams, I believe.”

Kepu’s time at Randwick afforded him a strong sense of community as much as a rugby apprenticeship, something that has been a strong thread though his life.

Kepu doesn't regret his short stint in France .Photo: InstagramIt was distance from that which brought he, wife Anna and their three children - Faith-Rose, Isaiah and Israel - back to Australia in June last year.

Rugby has provided that for Kepu with friends and family, the sport a major part of Kepu’s relationships with his father and brother growing up and one already coming through with his two sons.

Kepu’s globetrotting career is nothing new for his kids -Faith-Rose keeps a countdown every time he is away playing - but only now are they starting to comprehend what their dad does and take an interest.

“Now that the boys realise I'm not home that often, they sometimes have their little breakdowns but it's all part of it and thank goodness for Skype and Facetime and all those things I'm able to speak to them before they go to bed and those glimpses make things a little bit easier,” he says.

“I know my daughter's got a calendar to count down the nights she sleeps without Daddy but that's all part of it and they've learned to take it in their stride and just run with it.

When he is home, Kepu takes every chance to indulge his boys’ growing passion for sport.

:My two boys, especially my older son [Israel], he's right into it.

“Sometimes when I'm at home and after a big day's training he's calling me out to the backyard to play either soccer or rugby with him and chase him but I get out there and do it because it's his passion and both of them, now the younger ones getting into it.

“I used to remember Al Baxter used to talk about that - he's got three boys and he used to talk about running around the backyard with his boys and now I'm going through it. I appreciate every single time, moment that I get to spend with them.”

Sekope Kepu and his family enjoyed Christmas together. Photo: Getty ImagesAny conversation around his family comes back, though, to Anna, Kepu with admiration for her ability to deal with the travel of a Test footballer.

“She holds everything together really," he says.

“It's funny - it's a two-way thing and I have to try and still be supportive from here and encourage her and whatnot and she does the same when we chat about how things are travelling here and being away so without her things wouldn't go the way it is at the moment.

“I’m really appreciative of what she does and I don't know what I would do without her and three kids at home for one night, let alone five weeks.”