Melbourne Unicorns winger Taliu Tuia has been announced in the 2021 Junior Wallabies Squad.
Junior Wallabies Head Coach Nathan Grey today confirmed his squad, that included fellow Melbourne Rebels Josh Canham, Mason Gordon and Glen Vaihu, for the program’s second camp in 2021.
The camp provides an opportunity for new players to push their case for final squad selection leading into the Oceania U20s Championship.
Tuia could not contain his excitement after being announced as a new bottom-aged selection.
“I’m very happy, all my hard work has paid off…I’m just so excited,” he said.
“I found out by my coach telling me early in the morning, my family and friends were so shocked and happy for me.”
Junior Wallabies Squad selection is another accolade for Tuia in a year going from strength to strength. Starting his junior career at Brimbank Rugby Union Club, he joined reigning premiers Melbourne Unicorns in the Alltel Dewar Shield this season.
The rising star’s precocious talent, stellar underage performances, and ability to contribute to the highly-rated squad’s depth has led to his elevation to higher honours.
“My highlights this season have been my defence, making tackles as well as scoring tries and hat-tricks,” he said.
“I model my game off Hunter Paisami (Queensland Reds) because he is so good at his position.”
“He is unbelievable at running lines, I want to play the way he plays in every game.”
Rugby Victoria Head of Pathways Pom Simona believes Tuia’s selection is reward for his dedication and sacrifice to his rugby.
“Taliu is genuinely one of the most respectful, humble and hardest working players that has come through our pathways,” he said.
“He’s had to overcome a lot more than some of our other players, juggling full-time employment while he was in Junior Academy, so for him to get this opportunity is a great reward for all he’s sacrificed."
"It wasn’t unusual for Taliu to come to training after only 4 hours of sleep because of work, but his emotions and effort were always at a high level.”
Tuia has impressed in two matches for the Melbourne Unicorns this season and credits the strength of Victoria’s Premier Senior Rugby Competition for his rapid development.
“The Dewar Shield has prepared me well.”
“I am still learning about fitness and training and what it takes to be an elite player, but the Dewar Shield has given me the perfect platform for Junior Wallabies selection.”
“I know I need to work hard to earn my spot on the team now.”
Assembling on May 10 in Canberra, the Junior Wallabies Training Camp will run for a week as the squad continues to refine preparations for Oceania U20s Championship, scheduled for July.
“Junior Wallabies camp will be a wonderful opportunity for Taliu to test himself against the best talent in the country. Although he’s bottom age, I’m sure he’ll equip himself well and take away lots of learnings,” Simona said.
“You just can’t put a limit on players like Taliu who are driven, learners and have the training ethic to match.”
As for Tuia, his inspiring journey in rugby is only just beginning.
“It means so much to me seeing my dreams come true.”
“All my hard work is finally paying off!”
2021 Junior Wallabies Camp Two Melbourne Rebels Squad Members:
Josh Canham, Harlequins, Melbourne Rebels
Mason Gordon, Wests, Melbourne Rebels
Taliu Tuia, Unicorns, Melbourne Rebels
Glen Vaihu, Melbourne Rebels