Exciting rookie named to start in centres
QUEENSLAND centre Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea is finally ready to be unleashed upon the international rugby scene when the Wallaroos take on Japan in Newcastle on Saturday.
The teenager will be the youngest member of her side, aged just 19 years and 63 days, but her arrival on this stage could not have come any sooner because her Australian eligibility through residency only cleared in May.
The urgency to blood the boom rookie was real because she was born and raised in Auckland before migrating with family to Queensland in 2016.
Canny coach Dwayne Nestor was wise to nip the dual-eligibility issue in the bud because her selection will secure a generational talent to the Australian cause and deny New Zealand any chance to lure her back in the future.
The excitement for Lefau-Fakaosilea's eventual Australian debut has only grown in the 18 months since she turned the tide at the Brisbane 10s grand final with a thumping tackle and runaway try to win the title.
Rugby is in her DNA, not least because she is the niece of Wallabies giant Will Skelton.
Her mother, Skelton's sister, was a noted rugby player herself, who shared her passion with Alysia from the womb when she played representative rugby for Auckland and the Otahuhu club while pregnant with her.
"She was playing for a really long time even while she was pregnant with me," Lefau-Fakaosilea said.
"She played the same position as me (in the centres) for seven or eight years but she never had the same opportunities I have today.
"She had friends look after me on the sidelines when she played but she eventually stopped when she grew up.
"Now she says I've taken over her rugby career from where she left it."
There were tears aplenty from her parents, especially surprising from her stony-faced father, whom Lefau-Fakaosilea said she had never seen cry before, when they learned she would represent her adopted country in rugby.
"I wouldn't be where I am today and who I am today if it wasn't for my family. When I run on the field I'll be carrying them with me," she said.
Lefau-Fakaosilea will make up one-half of a potent centre combination when she lines up outside Western Australian Arian Hira-Herangi, who will also make her debut against Japan.
Wallaroos side to play Japan (from fullback)
Mahalia Murphy, Samantha Treherne, Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea, Ariana Hira-Herangi, Mhicca Carter, Trileen Pomare, Cobie-Jane Morgan, Grace Hamilton ©, Emily Chancellor, Millie Boyle, Alisha Hewett, Michaela Leonard, Evelyn Horomia, Averyl Mitchell, Emily Robinson. RESERVES: Ashley Marsters, Liz Patu, Eva Karpani, Rebecca Clough, Shannon Mato, Georgia Cormick, Arabella McKenzie, Lori Cramer