Stepping into NSW under 19s camp in July, Samuela Fainu was eager to absorb knowledge from former Test and Origin back-rowers Andrew Ryan and Josh Jackson, who had a combined total of 532 NRL games and 21 Blues appearances. These experienced veterans were the ideal mentors for Fainu as he ventured into the camp, with hopes of honing his skills. Fainu had made his grand entry into first-grade rugby by debuting for the Manly Sea Eagles and featuring in five matches as an edge back-rower.
Given the prestigious role of captaining his state against the Maroons, Fainu showcased his exceptional talent by running for 110 metres and breaking four tackles, contributing to NSW’s impressive victory of 32-14 over Queensland in Redcliffe. An extraordinary feat, considering he was handed the No.10 jersey, propelling him into the unfamiliar position of a middle forward.
Relating his experience, Fainu said, “Throughout that whole year I was playing in the edge back-rower position but that was my first time playing in the middle.” Joining the Wests Tigers, the NSW star expressed readiness to exhibit his newfound versatility, mentioning, “For me to learn those little details in how to play as a prop, I was able to take that back to my new club, and now I’m capable of playing as a back-rower and a middle.”
Fainu was all praise for the NSW under 19s camp, stating, “The experience of the camp on its own was really cool, learning off all the old heads like Bobcat (Ryan) and Josh Jackson, putting bits and pieces of their advice into my game.” His elation knew no bounds as he remarked, “I knew there was heaps of boys wanting to make the side or even the squad but to be picked in the team and named as captain was just the cherry on top.”
Upon arriving at Concord for the 2024 pre-season after completing the move to the Wests Tigers, Fainu disclosed his focus on training in the front row position with his new club. Acknowledging the significance of the guidance received from Stefano Utoikamanu, a family friend and specialist front rower, who made his debut for New South Wales this year, Fainu expressed his eagerness to elevate his game in the upcoming season.
“I’ve been training in the middle a lot more, we haven’t talked much about where I’ll be playing yet but I’ve just been in and out of back row and the middle so far,” Fainu revealed. Voicing his desire to learn from Stefano, Fainu emphasised, “He’s someone I definitely look up to and want to learn more from.”
Signing a four-year new deal alongside his brother Latu, Fainu articulated his aspirations of playing for the Wests Tigers alongside his younger brother, a promising five-eighth yet to make his NRL debut. Highlighting the family’s influence, Fainu mentioned, “We played together in NSW Cup with Manly but I’ve never played with Sione before, so hopefully we can all get on the big stage together one day.”