Samu Kerevi restores family name pride through Australian form | Gerard Meagher

lin a parallel universe, Samu Kerevi could be a mainstay of the All Blacks midfield. When he was seven years old, he had to flee a coup d’état in the Solomon Islands and boarded a cargo plane bound for New Zealand. However, fate would have it that the flight was diverted to Australia and although Kerevi did not speak a word of English, he was given Salvation Army clothing and asylum to build a life in Brisbane, where the Wallabies sided with Eddie Jones. receive. in the second Test on Saturday.

If that sounds like a sliding door moment, Kerevi has had some. He moved to the Solomon Islands because his grandfather – Kerevi was raised by his grandparents – was stationed there for his Commonwealth work. The 28-year-old had left Fiji to be with his grandfather as a young child – partly because he was born out of wedlock, and partly because his parents couldn’t afford to raise him and his two brothers, Joshua and Jone. .

It was also to escape a life of crime as at the time the name Kerevi was notorious for all the wrong reasons. He talks about bank robberies, robberies and “a lot of criminal activity” involving his cousins ​​and uncles. “Like out of a movie,” says Kerevi, whose nephew is about to serve a 14-year prison term and whose uncles have been in prison for more than 15 years. It was a fate that Kerevi waited for him to leave and now it is motivation to restore family pride with appearances for the Wallabies, such as the one that earned him the Man of the Match award in the 30-28 victory in the first Test last Saturday.

“I had a pretty tough upbringing,” Kerevi says. “My mother had us before the wedding, quite young, around 19-20. It was a pretty difficult situation. They weren’t in the best neighborhood and there was a lot of criminal activity. It was my grandmother’s sister’s family, they raised me – in Fiji anyone older is your grandparent. [My grandfather] worked for the Commonwealth at the time and was posted to the Solomon Islands. My older brother went with my grandparents, I went with another set of grandparents and my little brother stayed with my parents because they couldn’t support all three of us financially.

“Then the coup took place in 1999 or 2000, so we had to flee from the Solomon Islands. We were actually on our way to New Zealand but the plane stopped in Australia, I got a visa for asylum seekers and we ended up staying here. I didn’t really know what was going on.

Samu Kerevi appears to be gaining power through a few English players in Perth
Kerevi’s performance helped Australia to beat England in the first Test. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

“For me as a kid it was probably more of an adventure. Even when I left Fiji I probably thought my grandparents were just going to the beach and I was coming with them. I look back on it now and it could have been a lot more dangerous. I am really thankful for where I am now. To play for the Wallabies, I’m giving back to a country that has given me so much.”

Since making his Australia debut against England six years ago in Brisbane, Kerevi has developed into arguably the most formidable center in the world. That fixture remains the last game Australia was beaten in Brisbane – a stronghold of Wallabies and a city Kerevi feels blessed to call home.

“Fiji was a very difficult upbringing, but we were always shielded from it,” said Kerevi, who is set to face Noah Lolesio on Saturday while Quade Cooper is expected to miss another calf injury. “Many of my older cousins ​​are in prison, my uncles have been in prison for over 15 years. They are all out now and they have changed their lives. [My family] took me out because it wasn’t the best situation. Many criminal activities – bank robberies and attacks.

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“As Fiji, your last name is very important and our name on my father’s side was not very good at the time. Although they all had different surnames, everyone knew them as Kerevi and that name was not a positive one. I go home and my uncles let me sit and say how grateful they are for myself and my brothers [who also play in Japan] who have changed that surname.

“The greatest part I have enjoyed playing footy is that I can connect that name with something positive. For me it is really special. I know and understand the hardships my family went through during those difficult times. Being able to give back, through positivity, financially or just being there in Fiji, fills a huge hole in my heart.”

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