Junior steps, giant strides

HAPPY LIVING: Ex-Marist College student Lolo Fakaosilea looking rock solid in pre-season training, targeting his best year yet for the Reds. INSET: Lolo will his fiancee Jess.
HAPPY LIVING: Ex-Marist College student Lolo Fakaosilea looking rock solid in pre-season training, targeting his best year yet for the Reds. INSET: Lolo will his fiancee Jess. Contributed

AS the saying goes, a happy wife means a happy life.

Buoyed by his recent engagement to girlfriend Jess, Emerald boy Lolo Fakaosilea can set his sights on a big career in rugby.

That happy honeymoon period has the Queensland Reds blindside flanker in the best shape of his life, both on and off the field.

"Jess and I have been together for three years and now it's a bit serious," the 20-year-old Fakaosilea said.

"It just gives me something extra to work for, that little bit more of a drive to do well and set up a future.

"She loves rugby, even though her dad follows the AFL, she jumped ship and loves rugby now.

"She came to every one of my games last year and she is enormous support."

After debuting last year at only 19, Fakaosilea had five Super Rugby games for Queensland under his belt by season's end.

"All of the coaching staff have been massive for my rugby education," the former Emerald Brothers player said.

"Nick Stiles has been huge for my lineout ruck work and being a threat at the breakdown.

"With the help of Nick, Richard Graham, Matty O'Connor and Damian Marsh I really feel like I have evolved into a new player.

"I am just so happy with where I am right now, in the best shape and best form."

It might come as a shock that the much-maligned Quade Cooper is the person who has influenced Fakaosilea the most, with the two sharing a close friendship.

"I didn't expect to get a debut last year, being a forward it is rare to debut at 19 and I said to myself I don't want to be good, I want to be the best," Fakaosilea said.

"And that is something I learned from Quade. We have a really strong friendship.

"His first season at the club was a very poor one and everyone doubted him. So it was up to him to change their views.

"He told me to ignore what people say and told me 'don't be comfortable, be better'."

All of his Queensland jerseys except one have been donated to charity.

The one he kept is special and serves as reminder of a game he will never forget, the time he played the legendary Ritchie McCaw.

"I ran on as a replacement for Liam Gill and straight into the scrum and I looked up and saw Ritchie," Fakaosilea said.

"I gave him the smile, almost like a smile when you're checking out a chick or something and he looked at me and said 'you right'.

"But after the game he came up to me and I admitted I was just star struck. He told me he couldn't believe my age and talent. So I just had to keep his jersey."

He is now an old head on young shoulders, and with Jess at his side, the sky is the limit.

Topics:  rugby union

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