Young, gifted and going places
There's a raw aspect to new Tasman Makos loose forward Pete Samu that's been creating plenty of interest among the local rugby ranks.
The 22-year-old Melbourne-born loosie's been a conspicuous part of Waimea Old Boys' forward mix since joining the club in March, fresh from the Randwick club in Sydney. He's young and while clearly untested at ITM Cup level, his athletic ball-running style appeals as a perfect fit for the Makos' up-tempo approach.
He's just been confirmed as an addition to the Makos' pre-season squad and is working hard with strength and conditioning coach, Glenn Stewart, to try and add a bit more bulk to his rangy 99kg and 1.85m frame.
According to Stewart, Samu's gained 4.5kg since arriving in Nelson.
"When you compare him to other players, there's only one other member of our squad that's got skin folds as low as Pete, so he's in pretty good shape for a forward especially," Stewart said.
"He's got really strong with that increase in weight and he's just as quick, if not quicker. He's an athlete, that pretty much sums him up.
"He tested probably the best in the whole team as far as how much he'd improved and I'd expect to see him improve a lot between now and the actual Makos season.
"We certainly do have a collection of loose forwards who are exceptionally good ball carriers and [who are] really quick."
So far this season, Samu's contributed seven tries to Waimea's successful late Tasman Trophy bid as a pointer to his attacking potential, although the message is clear that he still has plenty to prove before becoming an established part of the Makos squad.
He made enough of an impression for Randwick in the 2012 New South Wales premier Shute Shield competition for former Waratahs Super 15 coach Michael Foley to include him in his wider training squad.
Tasman's chief executive, Tony Lewis, had also previously filled the same role with Randwick and alerted Tasman coaches Kieran Keane and Leon MacDonald to Samu's potential earlier this season. They've taken a punt, with Samu now excited about the challenge ahead of him and enjoying New Zealand's more physical approach to the game.
Samu's Melbourne roots inevitably meant an early involvement with AFL (Aussie Rules) before switching to the Moorabbin Rugby Club as either a midfielder, wing or fullback. However, his coaches eventually recognised his potential as an attacking loose forward.
"I started as a back then just slowly moved my way into the back row. I probably prefer six but I'm not fussed," Samu said.
His rugby education would also see him head to English club St Ives for a season before spending two seasons in Brisbane ahead of his eventual shift to Sydney.
He's already had a link of sorts with Tasman after his brother and halfback, Lua Vailoaloa, played 20 games for Tasman in 2007 and 2008. Having established himself at the Huia club, Vailoaloa encouraged his younger sibling to head across the Tasman.
"I just saw an opportunity to come here - and my brother's been here - so I thought I'd come over," Samu said.
"He told me that I'd like it, especially the way the [Makos] team plays, it'll suit the way I play myself."
The Nelson Mail