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'If China has a team I'll rep them too': Wong following in footsteps of SBW

Rookie Roosters forward Siua Wong believes playing for Fiji at last year’s World Cup has helped prepare him for the NRL finals, but the 20-year-old hasn’t ruled out switching international allegiances.

Wong, who has commanded a starting second-row berth for the Roosters since making his NRL debut in Round 18, was born in New Zealand and has Fijian, Samoan and Tongan heritage – as well as Chinese.

The son of New Zealand peace-keepers, Wong honoured his paternal grandfather, who is Fijian-Chinese, by playing for the Bati at the World Cup in England.

Siua Wong with his family after making his NRL debut in Round 18
Siua Wong with his family after making his NRL debut in Round 18 ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

However, his mother was born in Tonga, as were both his grandmothers, while his maternal grandfather is Samoan.

Before being scouted by the Roosters his only real league experience was playing for a Tonga under 14s team at a Pasifika carnival in Auckland.

“I am pretty close with all of my family, and I want to represent them all,” Wong said ahead of Friday night's semi-final against the Storm in Melbourne.

“I had always thought I had to be loyal to one but at the end of the day I am all four of those cultures and for me to give back to my family I would don any of those jerseys if they were available to me.

When I play it isn’t just to represent myself but to represent my family as well, and if China has a team, I’ll rep them one day too.

Compared by Roosters insiders to former captain Boyd Cordner because of his maturity and leadership qualities, Wong grew up idolising another of the club’s greats, Sonny Bill Williams, in whose footsteps he has followed.

Siua on the spot

Both went to Mt Albert Grammar School and were signed by Sydney-based NRL clubs at 14 years-of-age, with Williams becoming the youngest Bulldogs recruit after inking his first contract on the bonnet of John Ackland’s 1984 Nissan Centra.

That was before Wong was born in 2003 and his first NRL memory was of the 2013 grand final, in which Williams sparked a second half comeback by the Roosters to defeat Manly.  

“I still remember watching with my dad and my sister,” Wong said. “Growing up I watched Sonny Bill and wanted to be like him.”

Sonny Bill Williams demolishes Bulldogs

However, Wong's sporting background is the reverse of Williams, who had never played rugby union before walking out on the Bulldogs in 2008 to join the Tana Umaga-coached Toulon in France.

The Roosters spotted Wong playing schoolboy rugby union and invited him to academy-like training sessions in Auckland before offering him a scholarship at Scots College in Sydney.

After captaining the club’s SG Ball team, Wong earned selection in the Fiji squad for the World Cup, where he played every minute of the Bati’s campaign, which ended with a 24-18 quarter-final loss to the Kiwis.

Siua Wong in action for Fiji against Scotland at the 2022 World Cup
Siua Wong in action for Fiji against Scotland at the 2022 World Cup ©Getty Images

“Playing for Fiji at the World Cup has helped me quite a bit because before the World Cup I hadn’t debuted in the NRL, so it was my first time going up against real first graders,” Wong said.

“I think that experience gave me confidence leading into this season and I learned so much off guys like Api Koroisau and especially Viliame Kikau, because I was playing in the backrow. They were great leaders.

“The Fijian culture is grounded on faith and humility. That's one thing that I always cherish.

“Every time you see Fijians play, and every time you see them off the field, they've just got that happiness about them, and I think it all comes down to how they present themselves and how the express themselves.”

Siua Wong's school mates from Scots College turned out for his NRL debut
Siua Wong's school mates from Scots College turned out for his NRL debut ©Gregg Porteous /NRL Photos

Despite impressing at the World Cup, Wong had to bide his time in NSW Cup before Roosters coach Trent Robinson handed him an NRL debut in front of a large contingent of family and school friends from Scots College.

In his nine NRL appearances so far, Wong has spent time at second-row, lock, prop and centre - filling in for Joey Manu after he limped off against Wests Tigers and again in last Saturday night's 13-12 elimination final defeat of the Sharks.

Wong scored a try that enabled the Roosters to draw level at 12-12 and dived on a loose ball after Luke Keary's charge down of a late field goal attempt by Nicho Hynes to ensure the win.  

“During the week we practice for scenarios like that and funnily enough I found myself there so I just had to do my part for the team," he said.

"This year has been a big learning for me; a lot of young boys when they come through the system the first thing they want to do is to debut and I think Robbo was right - I wasn't ready.

"I just focused on my Cup games and making sure I was  able to perform my best out there, just to keep giving Robbo the idea that I'm ready for selection. It's pretty special to see how far I have come."

After winning their last six matches to reignite the club's premiership hopes, the Roosters are full of confidence and belief, despite a heavy injury toll, as they prepare to take on the Storm for a shot at Penrith in the preliminary final. 

“We've just been taking it one week at a time and I think that's been the best for us to keep focusing on," Wong said.

“This week we've got Melbourne and we'll put all of our attention into this group of boys and the opposition we are coming up against, and then hopefully we get the chance to play again next week.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.