The family ties that bind To'omua and heir Jordan

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Matt To’omua and Jordan Petaia have known each other since the rugby wunderkind was three but given the 10-year age gap, they never thought they'd play footy together.

Or To'omua didn't anyway. 

Even when knee-high to a grasshopper, Petaia always thought he was up for a full-contact game with the much older and much bigger To'omua when the family friends would get together. 

“Jordan was so young, it wasn't like we were playing much footy together because he was that young so it's quite scary,” To’omua laughed.

“He was always a rough and tumble kind of kid and he'd always try and play against myself and even my older brother, who's four years older than me, a lot older than Jordie so you always knew he was brave and was very good."

The link between Petaia and To'omua is through their fathers, who are old friends. They spent a lot time together and are still close today.

Both were born in Melbourne and educated in Brisbane, although To'omua was long since graduated from Brisbane State High - and already a professional rugby player - when Petaia began grade eight in 2013. 

Petaia grew up playing rugby league and idolising Billy Slater and now Wallabies squad-mate Israel Folau, who made his own teenage NRL debut when Petaia was just eight years old.

It wasn't until his second year at State High that he focussed on rugby seriously and it's a switch that has clearly paid off.

Petaia could be in contention to make his Test debut this weekend against Italy, becoming the third-youngest Australian to do so and potentially playing alongside To'omua for the very first time.

The 18-year-old has been punching above his age since stepping into the Super Rugby scene and To’omua said he’d showed signs of that since he was young.

“He played a lot of rugby league when he was younger - used to always go watch him play for Easts, or Logan Brothers or whatever back then," To'omua said.

“He was that young that I never thought our paths would cross but...his path's going to cross with a few people when you start when you're 18 so it's fair play.”

Petaia has gone from strength to strength in 2018, becoming Queensland’s youngest Super Rugby debutant less than a year after graduating from high school and leading the NRC try-scoring list.

Even with the praise he has received in 2018, Petaia wasn’t expecting to be jumping on a plane to Europe in November

He was on the way to Fiji with NRC side Queensland Country for the tournament final when he received a call from Wallabies team manager Pat Molihan with the news, having missed an earlier email with the news.

A quick text to his parents was all that he had time to bash out before jumping on that flight and trying to process the news.

“We were just boarding the plane so I quickly just chucked my parents a text message, let them know I was going to be flying from Fiji to Japan,” he said.

“I think Dad ended up coming to Fiji for the final anyway so I told him there but they were really happy for me, stoked.”

His family will be stoked again if he manages to make his first Wallabies appearance this weekend, particularly playing with To'omua.

The Wallabies will take on Italy in Padova on Saturday November 17, kicking off at 3pm local, 1am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports Channel 515 and SBS.