Sera Naiqama grew up playing lounge room football with her two older brothers and her path to rugby was paved in many ways by them.
Kevin and Wes, both NRL players, have carved out professional rugby league careers but their reaction to Sera’s adoption of rugby union wasn’t immediately supportive.
“I think the first reaction was they laughed,” she said.
“They thought probably I didn’t have it in me, although maybe a year and a half they watched me play my first game and they said, ‘Oh yeah, you can play. It’s probably worth your time’.”
“My mum - her first reaction was a straight up ‘no’ although my dad is a bit more relaxed about it and he was like ‘aww, baby if that’s what you want definitely go for it’.”
Naiqama was spurred on by her brothers’ reaction, and they’ve since become her biggest fans
“Initially why I wanted to play was to show my brothers that I was tough and I could play footy,” she said.
“Since then, the things that keeps me attracted to the game is just the camaraderie and how close everyone gets in a team.”
Naiqama lives with older brother and Wests Tigers player Kevin and though they’re ‘ships in the nights’ with their schedules, he’s a source of comfort for her.
“When there is stuff I’m uncertain of, I do go to him and it’s really helpful to have the boys there because they definitely give me a lot of advice that’s valuable,” he said.
“My brothers are my role models. Seeing how much they’ve accomplished and where they are today literally inspires me and helps me know that the sky is the limit.”
The second rower, who initially started out as a back, showed off her jets for Sydney Uni in the women’s competition, scoring a sensational try for the powerhouse women’s side, though she says that’s no weekly occurrence.
“It wasn’t until 2014 the coach that took on Sydney said, ‘Sera, I don’t think think you’re a back , I think you’re either an eight or a second rower.
“That was such a far thought for me because (I thought), ‘I’m not taking the hit-ups, why would I want to take the hit-ups, why won’t someone else do it?’,” she laughed.
“I think that really did open a new door of opportunity for me and now that I’m playing second row.”
Now that she’s gone into the forward pack, Naiqama reckons she’ll never look back.
The Buildcorp Women’s XVs nationals kick off on the Gold Coast on Friday, with Sydney looking for a third-straight title, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au