Fijian family helping Koroibete find Test groove

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

There are few rugby-playing nations that don’t have a Fijian in their ranks, and it’s an element that Wallabies speedster Marika Koroibete has relished as he’s gone from Test bystander to regular starter.

Koroibete has come out of his shell since being fast-tracked into the Wallabies’ Spring Tour squad last year, an evolution borne out of the mentorship of his fellow Fijian backs, like Tevita Kuridrani and Henry Speight.

The camaraderie stretches well beyond the Australian confines though, players often going to each others’ houses for dinner after a Test match in different places around the world..

During the 2015 World Cup, current England winger Semesa Rokoduguni had Speight and Kuridrani over for dinner and Koroibete said that was something special about Fijians around the world.

“It's just a culture for us from Fiji, (when you’re) staying in different countries,” he said.

“We just care about each other, doesn't matter what jersey you wear, after the game you're mates, you just look after each other and have a chat, 'what they're doing, how's the tour going, that's how it is.”

On the field, coming up against his countrymen is a challenge he embraces as well, with players like New Zealand’s Waisake Naholo among the best in the world.

“There are a lot of Fijian wing international around the world, they're very classy too,” he said.

“It's good to come up against one and that's the potential challenge, there’s some good wingers.”

Koroibete didn’t play a Test on last year’s Spring Tour, featuring in just a non-capped mid-week game against the French Barbarians, but he’s far from a bystander this time around, thrown into the fray in Cardiff after playing his first Bledisloe Test last month.

“Last year...I was a passenger, I was just trying to settle in there and I was sitting in the crowd watching the boys,” he said.

“To be able to play in Cardiff,  they're passionate about rugby over here.

“It was good to have a run, it was great atmosphere. I could feel the energy in there."

Koroibete's attack is well-known but it's been the improvement in his defence that has helped keep him in the regular Wallabies fold.

The winger put on a sensational cover tackle in the dying minutes of Australia’s win over Wales, and has won some internal ‘best defender’ awards with the team in recent weeks.

It’s an effort the 25-year-old said was made all the easier by having such a strong relationship with the players around him.

"It's teamwork, you have to trust your teammates, you have to know the material, how you're going to respond to, what you're going to do on the field and that bond is very special and it works on the field.

(If the bond) outside the field is better, obviously we're going to be good in the field."

In a different time, Koroibete could have been running out for Fiji at the Rugby League World Cup, but he has no regrets about his move, after a year back in the 15-man game.

“I watched the (Melbourne Storm) boys win the grand final this year,” he said.

“I had my time with Fiji in the Rugby League World Cup, managed to reach the semi-finals.

“Hopefully the boys go so far this year, hopefully they make another step from there, reach the final if they can.”

Australia takes on England on Saturday November 18, kicking off at 3pm local, Sunday 2am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports and SBS.