If it wasn’t for the Australian Sevens team, Samu Kerevi might never have played for the Wallabies again.
It is why the 28-year-old is returning for the Sevens team to spearhead their Commonwealth Games bid.
Kerevi never closed the book on Australian rugby, but his decision to head to Japan following the 2019 World Cup meant he was ineligible to play for the Wallabies.
All along though Kerevi watched his former teammates pull on the gold jersey and wished he could still be a part of it.
While the Wallabies wouldn’t bend their eligibility laws, Australia’s Sevens team did and Kerevi leapt at the opportunity to try and crack the squad.
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He did, and although Australia struggled at the Tokyo Games, Kerevi was one of Tim Walsh’s best while his teammates valued his attitude and lack of ego. That was shown in the Wallaby star’s decision not to ask for a cent for his months of commitment to the program.
Such was his performance and commitment that Dave Rennie and Rugby Australia tweaked their eligibility laws to ensure he could be selected. Kerevi did, and with the giant centre in the team the Wallabies have lost just one of six Tests he has played since returning including in their drought-breaking win over England on Saturday.
Almost one year on Kerevi will return to the Sevens program, as he returns for their gold medal bid in Birmingham later this month.
“Sevens hold a special part in my heart,” he said.
“I was away for a long time and for me to be able to come back to Australia and put on the gold jersey was important to me, and I wasn’t in the 15s at the time.
“They gave me that opportunity and welcomed me with open arms.
“That was the bond we made last year after the Olympics.
“I gave them my word that if I was available I would definitely come back and try with Comm Games and here we are.”
Kerevi is the biggest marque player in the Sevens squad.
He earns an estimated $1.2 million a year – 10 times the amount of the average Aussie Sevens player.
But you wouldn’t know that he is one of the world’s premier players by the way he goes about his business inside his various squads.
Instead, Kerevi is like a sponge. It’s why he’s so respected everywhere he goes.
“I just want to come into the squad, I want to I want to make sure they know I’m there to push for a spot,” he said. “And I’m there to work hard.
“That was the biggest part of me coming in was just making sure I put my head down, listen, have a glass half full.
“I’m not the best player in the world, I don’t want to come in and think I know everything. I’m always willing to learn and listen to guys in the sevens program and the coaching staff and get better.
“That’s why I step into a game like sevens because it’s uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable for a big guy like me to five, seven metres beside me and having to track a guy that has great feet, that has great speed. So a part of it is me stepping into an uncomfortable zone that I want to overcome.
“And those boys have been nothing but welcoming.
“If I make a squad or not, I’m just there to influence the boys in a positive way and give back a bit of knowledge that I’ve learned from the game.”
Kerevi has yet to win the tournaments he so dearly craves.
But rather than focus on what a medal might mean for himself, the massive centre said he was more focused in helping his teammates take home something given the difficult place the national program has been in recent years.
Following their Tokyo disappointment, where they were knocked out by Fiji in the quarter-finals, the program was reduced from 18 to six.
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It led to new coach John Manenti scouring Brisbane and Sydney’s club rugby competitions in search of talent. They’ve been found, but performing in one of the two big events is something that will take Australia notice.
“I understand how the program’s toughed it out the last couple of years,” Kerevi said.
“I want to get a medal for the program more than just myself.
“Of course it would be special. Not a lot of guys in 15s get to transition over to sevens and try to win an Olympic gold medal or Commonwealth gold medal.
“I think it’s pretty important and something that I’d look back and I’d be happy with that, that I gave it a crack.
“I think that the program deserves a medal. Those boys work extremely hard. The coaching staff and everyone involved in sevens work extremely hard to get the program going every year. So yeah, we definitely want to win for that.”
AUSTRALIAN RUGBY SEVENS COMMONWEALTH GAMES SQUADS
Women: Charlotte Caslick, Lily Dick, Dominique Du Toit, Demi Hayes, Madison Ashby, Tia Hinds, Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea, Maddison Levi, Teagan Levi, Faith Nathan, Sariah Paki, Jesse Southwell, Sharni Williams.
Coach: Tim Walsh
Men: Ben Dowling, Matt Gonzalez, Henry Hutchinson, Samu Kerevi, Nathan Lawson, Maurice Longbottom, Nick Malouf, Ben Marr, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Henry Paterson, Dietrich Roache, Corey Toole, Josh Turner.
Coach: John Manenti