As a rising star of the Wests Tigers, Jahream Bula is devout in his abstinence from cigarettes and alcohol. With a natural talent for basketball, he’s currently in a relationship with Aaliyah Haumono, daughter of Solomon Haumono, who has a history in professional boxing and rugby league.
Even with his status growing, every Tuesday the 21-year-old still eagerly anticipates the release of the team sheet to see if he’s in the starting line-up. Just to add to his captivating story, he lists “Nitro” aka Hitro Okesene, a founding member of the New Zealand Warriors and a cult icon in New Zealand, as his uncle.
Despite qualifying to represent Queensland, Bula has set his sights on donning the sky blue of NSW. “I’m eligible for Queensland, but I don’t know – I’d like to play for NSW,” he divulged, noting that his father, Peter, lives in Coffs Harbour.
Jahream Bula has quickly become an integral part of the Wests Tigers setup. His blooming talent and growing influence on the field have created a renewed sense of optimism around the club. In fact, his arrival might be the best thing to happen to the Tigers since James Tedesco rose to stardom.
With roots in New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, and Indigenous Australia, Bula is favoured to be named the NRL‘s rookie of the year. With his prominence rising on and off the field, rival clubs have taken notice, with many keeping a keen eye on Bula’s contract situation when it comes to an end after 2025.
However, the Tigers have worked tirelessly to keep Bula’s media exposure minimal, for fear he might become distracted by his growing fame. Earlier in the year, coach Tim Sheens voiced his annoyance when an article quoted him praising Bula for his commitment and potential.
“Jahream Bula will be a kid who comes out of nowhere; he has been the best trainer at the club,” said Sheens in January of this year. It seems that he was spot on.
The club and Sheens, however, don’t need to stress about Bula’s rising profile. Testament to Bula’s grounded and appreciative nature, Tigers prop David Klemmer has dubbed him “Will Hopoate 2.0,” likening him to the attractive style and gentlemanly manner of the Tongan fullback and centre player.
Bula reminisced about his journey to the NRL earlier this week, admitting that he didn’t anticipate playing this year, especially considering his standing behind Daine Laurie and Charlie Staines in the fullback pecking order at the start of summer. However, Bula’s talent rapidly shone through, with Laurie and Staines realising they had a real contender on their hands.
Cleary praised Bula thus: “Only because you’ve reminded me about that night a few times now. Jahream is a gun. I really enjoy watching him play. They [the Tigers] have struggled throughout the year, but he’s often been their bright light, and it’s impressive for a young guy, especially playing in a tough position. I rate him highly.”
Bula expressed his desire to lift the Tigers to glory while also aiming for international honours with Fiji and Samoa, and NSW. “We’re on the up here. We’ll all be hungrier again next year,” he confidently predicted.
Bula’s journey to the NRL started with a move to the Gold Coast at the suggestion of his mother, Shalom, who showed him a video of Keebra Park State High School – the alma mater of Benji Marshall who has been one of Bula’s idols. Bula joined a rugby sevens tournament where he played alongside the legendary Greg Inglis and recalled that experience, saying, “I played with Greg, and while people think he convinced me to play league again, that was never the case,” Bula says.
It was Trey Peni, a friend from Keebra Park and a lower-grade player at the Tigers, who recommended Bula to the club. After watching his high schools highlights and further understanding his potential from previous records at Keebra, the Tigers wasted no time in signing him up.
Currently, Bula is still maturing his command as a fullback. According to Sheens, “We had to wait 10 rounds to play him because he was only a train and trialist, but once Ken Maumalo moved on, we could play him after eight rounds – I just wish we could have played him even earlier”. The coach also maintains hopes that Bula’s on-field communication will improve over time.
Offering a glimpse of Bula’s importance to the team, Sheens stated, “in two years’ time, all things being equal, he’ll be one of the best fullbacks running around”. This sentiment is echoed by the Tigers‘ fans.