We caught up with Salford centre, Junior Sa’u about his experience of playing in the National Rugby League and how his foundations are built on faith.
So Junior you’re currently with Salford in the European Super League, how are you enjoying the English game, compared with your experiences in Australia and New Zealand?
It’s pretty good, it’s getting on for four years now. When I first arrived, I had spoken to my wife about doing two years, two years later I have been here another two, so I am enjoying my rugby here and I am just praying that there is more to come. I am just enjoying the journey because it doesn’t last long, that is what keeps me going.
Looking back now to when you were starting out, was pro Rugby always the plan?
Well I started playing at the age of eleven in Australia for Logan Brothers and I got signed up at the age of twelve on a scholarship with Canberra Raiders. They looked after me until I thought that I could make a career out of it by about sixteen to eighteen. I was then taken on fulltime and developed my game.
Ever thought of trying your hand at Rugby Union?
It is what it is, but I have a lot of mates that play Rugby Union, after making the switch. I watch a bit of Union as well.
Could you tell us how you came to know God for yourself?
I started pretty young, I have been brought up in the Christian setting through my family, especially with my grandma. She always told me to put God first no matter what and to trust in his plans no matter what. I always pray before I go to sleep and then when I wake up, just to say thank you for everything and for the blessing that it is to play rugby and fulfill my dreams.
You’ve represented New Zealand several times, how proud are you to have had the opportunity?
Yes it was one of my highlights, for me and for my family. For me to represent the country that I was born and raised in, I am not only representing myself but also my family. It was a great opportunity and a good experience for me that I will never forget.
What was behind the switch to represent Samoa?
The reason was for my mum and dad, who were born in Samoa. I wanted to put my hand up, not just doing it for myself, but for my parents also which made them proud. The opportunity was there so I thought why not. It was awesome, whenever we came back into the Samoan camp after having been away with our different clubs it was like a big family reunion.
As a Christian in elite sport, is it easy to have faith conversations with other players?
I know some people are not religious and so I do not judge, it depends on the way that they have been brought up in life. Boys in the team have respect for what I and others believe in, I say a little prayer to myself before I run out onto the pitch and then I do a prayer afterwards, win or lose, just to give thanks to the Lord. Everyone has different ways of prepping for a game, personally I just like to pray after I warm up. When I was at Newcastle Knights and we all got together and prayed as a team so everyone is just different.
What’s one thing in your career, that you still long to achieve?
To win a grand final, I will keep going until the body gives up. I just want to enjoy my rugby and if I do that then it brings the best out of me.
Who is the best player that you have ever played with?
The best player that I have played with, there are a couple. One of those is Billy Slater when I was at Melbourne Storm, just for the way that he reads the game and his knowledge of the game means that he could end up being a super coach. The second player would be Cameron Smith because of the way that he manages the game. One thing I still remember that both of them taught me was that even when you reach your peak, that’s not it, you keep learning. With them they never stop learning and so that’s what I have taken out of them, Their knowledge is second to none.
As a senior player, what advice would you give to young rugby players starting out?
Work hard and trust in God’s plan.