He might have continued to be a police officer, develop into a sevens participant for Fiji, or perhaps a soccer worldwide however, as an alternative, is about to expire at Eden Park as Australia’s now not-so-secret weapon after turning down a $2million abroad supply to pursue his dream of donning a gold jersey.
‘‘I consider in every of the boys that we are able to beat New Zealand,’’ Daugunu says from Auckland. ‘‘I consider nothing is inconceivable. Should you consider and work onerous, we are able to do it.’’
4 years in the past, then Wallabies coach Michael Cheika was in a rebuild part. He blooded three debutants – Dane Haylett-Petty, Samu Kerevi and Rory Arnold – for the primary Take a look at towards England in 2016. At about the identical time, Daugunu was a police officer in Fiji with two failed Australian visa purposes threatening his probabilities of making a profession in rugby.
Daugunu’s journey from the city of Labasa to the worldwide area is definitely the highway much less travelled. ‘‘Lipo’’, as his family and friends name him, misplaced his mom as a consequence of kidney issues when he was a seven-year-old and moved in his with aunty and uncle. He performed numerous sports activities as a child, however excelled at soccer and rugby, in addition to the excessive bounce.
Daugunu was an agile goalkeeper who represented Fiji’s youth groups and his boot, maybe under-utilised, has even been seen by Rennie, who stated just lately: ‘‘Filipo is a pure kicker of the ball’’.
The story goes that after Reds coaching a number of years again, an impromptu penalty shootout befell below the aim posts at Ballymore. Nobody knew Daugunu’s soccer background – he toured New Zealand in 2011 with Fiji’s under-17s earlier than being chosen for the under-23s – however, for no matter purpose, he was tossed in aim and turned a number of heads by saving each kick.
‘I considered staying for a short time, however my aunty stated I ought to go. The following day I went to the police headquarters to inform them to launch me.’
However rugby was his love and in his blood: his grandfather, Esira, represented Fiji within the 1970s and his uncle, Sailosi Naiteqe, ran out in six Assessments for his nation.
Daugunu spent six months coaching to be a police officer however two weeks into the job, on an evening shift, he acquired some sudden information.
‘‘I used to be going to attempt yet another time [for a visa to come to Australia] and some weeks later my aunty stated the visa had been accredited,’’ he says. ‘‘I instructed my aunty I’m leaving and gained’t be a police officer once more. The police wished me to work for one 12 months after which I might go.
“I considered staying for a short time, however my aunty stated I ought to go. The following day I went to the police headquarters to inform them to launch me. I gave them every little thing I had. I really missed my flight to Australia.’’
Daugunu says Fiji didn’t need to launch him from its sevens program, however he’d made up his thoughts Wallabies jersey was what he wished. He arrived at Wests Bulldogs in Brisbane forward of the Queensland Premier Rugby season hoping to earn a contract with the Reds.
‘‘In 2017 I went to a Reds sport at Suncorp Stadium and instructed myself that in 2018 I’d be taking part in at Suncorp,’’ Daugunu says. ‘‘I did it the following 12 months.’’
In Daugunu’s first 12 months at Wests he carved up the competitors, scoring 11 tries in 13 video games because the Bulldogs performed finals for the primary time in 10 years. Within the Nationwide Rugby Championship that 12 months, Daugunu was the main try-scorer and bagged a hat-trick for Queensland Nation in a grand remaining win in Canberra.
His Tremendous Rugby debut got here in 2018, however he wasn’t eligible to play for the Wallabies till December final 12 months, when he signed a cope with the Reds and Rugby Australia till the top of 2023. A 3-year, $2 million supply was on the desk to jet to Japan, however Daugunu wished to do his household proud and play for the Wallabies.
Tuqiri is glad Daugunu made his method to Australia, describing his debut as ‘‘sensational’’. ‘‘His footwork in tight areas to poke his head by means of is invaluable towards the All Blacks,’’ he stated. ‘‘It’s an amazing story.’’
Daugunu’s household will probably be watching at present, bursting with delight. ‘‘After the sport [last Sunday] they despatched me a video and it was a full home – individuals within the kitchen, some watching outdoors,’’ he says. ‘‘They have been pleased and cheering for Australia.”
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Tom Respectable is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald