Humility the touchstone for Pasitoa as rugby dream begins with the Brumbies

Super Rugby
by Iain Payten

Reesjan Pasitoa’s first proper week at work as a Brumby co-incided with the week all his freshly de-mobbed mates were at Schoolies.

He thinks.

If he’s being honest, Pasitoa doesn't know the detail because there was never a decision to be made between the two. He had never planned to go.

That’s what happens when you’re signed by a Super Rugby franchise while still in year 11 and have been eyeing off the slow arrival of your dream for a year.

"Week one of pre-season for me was, I believe, the week of schoolies for Queensland students,” Pasitoa said.

"But that’s cool, I would much rather be doing what I am doing. I am very grateful for the opportunity here.”

Pasitoa turned 18 at the end of 2019 and, after a few get-to-know-you trips to Canberra since being signed by the Brumbies from Nudgee College in 2018, the young five-eighth dived headfirst into professional rugby career.

Much is expected of Pasitoa, who has been the subject of plenty of hype since he started carving it up as a youngster in the GPS schools completion in Brisbane.

Reesjan Pasitoa is one of the new faces in the Brumbies squad for 2020. Photo: WalmsleyRaised in Perth before moving east for school, Pasitoa starred for Nudgee and led them to consecutive premierships in 2017-18 before impressing as a member of the Australian Schools and Under 18s side that impressed on their conquering tour of Ireland and Scotland in 2018.

With rugby league circling, Rugby Australia used its still-new “Fighting Fund” to lock down Pasitoa and amid interest from several Super Rugby, the playmaker agreed to join the Brumbies when he finished school.

He was one of the youngest players ever to be signed by an Australian Super Rugby team.

"I came down for a day to check out the HQ and the faciiltes and got to meet the coaches and some of the boys as well, which was really good,” Pasitoa said.

"Pretty much straight away I liked their expectations and I like the vibe of the club. It is very family orientated and family is really important for me. So far it’s one of the best decisions of my life.”

After spending a week in pre-season with the Brumbies in January 2019, Pasitoa steered the Aussie schoolboys to a rare win in New Zealand during the year and after finishing his year 12 exams and skipping schoolies, he moved to Canberra to begin training.

Unsurprisingly, it’s been a steep learning curve. Suddenly the field is full of men, not boys.

"Especially the contact side of things, it’s definitely a step up,” Pasitoa said.

The big change for me is probably the running load. It is a lot more running, you are constantly on your feet doing stuff. And that’s definitely a major change and challenge, up from my schoolboy training schedule.

"Just those back to back efforts and always getting there in time. Definitely the running load and the contact, of course.”

Like older brothers, Pasitoa has been guided by senior Brumbies like Irae Simone, Tom Wright and Tom Banks and he gets a lift to training by his neighbour Toni Pulu.

"It’s going really well. I always learning, it’s going awesome for me.

"There is great competition around for me and I am getting pushed and that is just going to make me better and better, so its all good. I am loving it.”

It’s a shame for all concerned that Pasitoa’s arrival in Canberra came at the same time Christian Lealiifano elected to finally move on, after 12 seasons with the club.

There are more than a few echoes of Lealiifano in Pasitoa - the former also arrived in Canberra as a talented young back in 2007 - and you suspect even one season learning at the feet of Lealiifano would have been immensely valuable for the 18-year-old.

Whether he goes on to match the on-field feats of Lealiifano at the Brumbies remains to be seen, but Pasitoa seemingly arrives with some of the same personality traits, in any case.

Asked how he has dealt with hype and media attention in the last few years, Pasitoa said: "I guess it comes back to how my family raised me. Always be humble, don’t get ahead of yourself."

"There have been a lot of people who have told me the key thing is you want to be a teammate that all the boys love, and all the team want to play with,” Pasitoa said.

"Being humble is one of the most important things in life in general really. It doesn’t matter if you’re an athlete or anything else.”

Pasitoa is one of a number of young tens in the Brumbies squad eyeing off the vacancy left by Lealiifano at no.10, along with Noah Lolesio, Bayley Kuenzle and Mack Hansen.

It is likely a season-too-soon for Pasitoa, who is yet to play against men in senior footy, but the teenager is bold in his ambitions. He wants to play Super Rugby in 2020.

"As soon as I left school I knew my goal for this season is to make my debut. That’s my goal,” Pasitoa said.

"That’s always been my dream, to play professional rugby. And now I have that opportunity I want to do everything I can to hopefully get that opportunity at some stage.

"And then, other than that, it’s just improving every day. On and off the field, I am really lucky to have some great guys here who help with on and off field stuff. So yeah, to make my debut and to improve every day, in life.”