IN football terms, Junior Lolo Fakaosilea could be Central Highlands’ next big thing.
In the space of a few short months, the talented 15-year-old rugby player has been catapulted from relative obscurity into the coaching realms of Australian Rugby Union.
Last weekend he and 31 other junior players from around the region turned out for Queensland Rugby Union’s first academy camp of 2011, and was deemed worthy for inclusion in ARU’s Junior Gold Squad.
He was lining up against some of the best for his age but it was Lolo’s skills that shone the brightest for ARU Elite Player Development coach Chris Lane.
“It was a good experience, I can see it helping me a lot in the future,” Lolo said.
“He (Lane) pulled me out of the group and announced it in front of the other boys.”
Lolo remained modest about his achievement, choosing to keep his newfound success under wraps for the short term.
“I’m a bit quiet – only a few people know about it,” he said.
Lolo and just one other from Rockhampton, Lachlan Hoch, were chosen from the Queensland camp to join the exclusive Gold squad.
But rugby wasn’t the only code this talented teenager has immersed himself in.
After beginning his football career in union at Sunnybank in Brisbane, representative honours beckoned early with selection in the Metropolitan Easts league side.
“I didn’t even know what league was – all I knew was you ran the ball up and got tackled,” Lolo said.
The league front rower continued to be involved in the code when he moved to Emerald, and last year won Emerald Brothers under-15 Best and Fairest award.
While he said league was great for the fitness, union was his primary focus and would remain so into the foreseeable future.
“With the Queensland Reds, that’s were I want to be,” he said.
“I want to play professional rugby.”
Mum Sela said this path for Lolo was meant to be.
“I could always see it,” she said.
“I’m glad he’s playing union because that’s what he always wanted to do.”
QRU Central Queensland Development Manager Joel Johnston listed support play and control at the initial impact - where matches are often won and lost- as critical areas where selectors scrutinise players’ abilities.
“Regionally everybody can attack but we need players to be dominant at the contact zone,” Johnston said.
“It is also about what they do off the ball – they need to be working to put themselves in a position to assist the team when they are without the ball as well.
“But he (Lolo) is an explosive athlete and has a good attitude which always helps.”
ARU training will begin for Lolo in Brisbane on February 20 and will form part of the squad’s monthly training commitment.
Also making their mark on the regional rugby stage were Emerald’s Connor Jones and Robert Fuz from Moranbah, who have been confirmed in the QRU’s CQ Junior Academy.
Both Jones and Fuz, like Fakaosilea, were identified in the local Central Highlands competition.
The squad sits only one rung lower than the ARU Gold Squad and provides a tangible link to QRU coaching staff.
Johnston said the selection of all players in these teams only served to reinforce the keen interest elite coaches have in country areas.
“It’s certainly a shot in the arm for local junior rugby.
“It shows that we’re not forgotten out here and that QLD and ARU are serious about looking at kids in the region and that these types of pathways are available.”
The junior Reds academy trains monthly around the region and Junior will attend another training camp in Rockhampton over the Easter School Holidays.