Solomone Kata always felt he would end up in rugby, despite spending five years in the NRL, and the Brumbies addition says he feels right at home in Canberra.
Kata grew up in Tonga, idolising Ma’a Nonu and watching Super Rugby every weekend, before earning a scholarship with Auckland’s Sacred Heart College.
He played rugby through high school but as the end of his education approached, so too did the NRL’s Warriors and he decided to take the opportunity that presented.
After four seasons with the Kiwi rugby league team, Kata signed a two-year deal with the Storm but ultimately made the call to return to rugby halfway through that deal.
Despite beginning his professional path in league, Kata said his ambition to play Super Rugby never left him.
“Before I went to league, this probably was my main goal for me, was to play Super Rugby,” he said.
“When I was young, the major thing was everyone watching Super Rugby and they had heaps of fans and that.
“I was the biggest fan of Ma'a Nonu back then. He was pretty good.
When I got my scholarship to New Zealand and I got an opportunity for the Warriors, that's the reason why I joined the league.
“It was always the back of my mind, 'I'm going to come back, going to come back to rugby’.”
A connection between his former high school coach and Brumbies high performance boss Chris Tindall sparked an interest in moving to Canberra and an endorsement of the club’s family focus sealed the deal.
“My coach from high school, he was working with Chris Tindall at Brumbies and they have a connection and my agent talked through all the clubs and that and the Brumbies came through as well,” he said.
“Then my coach back in high school called me as well and said, ‘Brumbies, I've been there, they're a very good club, they're all about family’.
“That's the main thing because he said they're pretty good, coaches and that are pretty good, they're all about family and stuff, that's what I'm all about.”
The family feeling he was chasing was something Kata said he brought from his time at NRL powerhouse Melbourne Storm, a team from which he learned plenty despite not playing a first grade game.
“I've been to the Melbourne Storm and that's their big thing there about family, you pretty much can't let your family down, you know?,” he said.
“But that's why I picked this team.
“When I was at the Storm, everyone there especially their coach (Craig Bellamy), he's the main guy there that drives that energy around the boys and stuff and you can see it from there.
“I've carried that around with me and then just brought my own energy to training, that's all you need.
“If everyone brought their own energy, everyone's different, but if they bring their own energy to training and then they put them together, everything will turn out pretty good and we'll be good.”
His transition back to his childhood sport has been swift, though he admitted it took a little bit of time to adjust to the different ruckwork in rugby.
“You have to work harder in the ruck, you don't have to retreat five metres, 10 metres at the back and get up but sometime I just like forgot and I was like, at the ruck I ran back and turned around and looked back again,” he said.
“It was pretty funny, I was just laughing, two seconds and got back to it.
“Now I pick it up really quick, I was just a happy man, just I feel so good and can’t wait for the season to start.”
Teammates and coaches alike have expressed how impressive Kata has been on and off the field, quickly settling into that “family” that he values.
Kata looms as a contender for an inside centre spot but said he was open to playing at 13 or even on the wing if that opportunity came up.
“At the moment because I don't really worry about which position I want to play don't know but whatever the coaches, all I'm doing now is training hard and trying to be good every day.
“Every training, I have to be at my best but it's up to them if they put me at 12 but I don't mind 12,13, wing, I'm just going to take it with both hands.”
The Brumbies play their only 2020 trial on Thursday January 23 in Albury against the Rebels.
The Brumbies take on the Rebels in their Super Rugby trial at Greenfield Reserve, Albury on Thursday January 23, LIVE on RUGBY.com.au.