WANDERERS No.8 Frances Ieremia was in London preparing to play for Samoa in the World Rugby Seven series tournament at Twickenham this time last year.
It was the 25-year-old’s second tournament back from a dislocated ankle.
He had previously missed eight months after breaking his leg against France in the South African leg of the sevens series in Capetown in December 2015.
At Twickenham, Samoa were drawn alongside Australia, England and Spain. They went down to Australia (34-5) and the hosts (24-19) and beat Spain (40-7) to finish third in the pool. They were pipped 29-21 by Wales in the quarter-final of the Challenge Trophy before bouncing back to beat Japan (33-7) and Russia (24-19) to finish 13th.
London was the final leg of the series and Samoan coach Gordon Tietjens suggested that Ieremia played some club rugby.
Ieremia’s partner Laura Tyan is from Black Hill and her family has a connection with Wanderers.
The pair were living in Samoa, where they met when Laura was a volunteer teacher, and decided to join her family in Australia.
“Economically it was hard living in Samoa,” Ieremia said. “I decided to take a break from the sevens and come here to Newcastle. Laura’s grandfather used to be Wanderers’ dentist. The club has been great. I have an opportunity to go back to the sevens program next year, but if things go well here with Wanderers I might stay.”
Ieremia played a handful of games, mainly in second grade, in the final stages of last season. With the benefit of a pre-season, he has been one of Wanderers stars in the opening five rounds.
He is the competition’s leading try- scorer with six, highlighted by a hat-trick in the 42-7 win over University last round, and leads Wanderers in securing turnovers.
“He is powerful and has really good footwork,” Wanderers coach Darren Young said. “He hadn’t played much rugby when he arrived last year. He is going to get better and better. He gives us another dimension off the back of the scrum with his speed.”
Before his two- year stint in the Samoan sevens program, Ieremia represented Manu Samoa (15-a-side) at the 2015 Pacific Nations Cup.
“Sevens was a great experience,” he said. “We got to travel and meet other players from other countries. I also enjoy the 15-a-side game. The other forwards here have set a good platform and allow me to run the ball. I’m really enjoy Youngy’s game plan.”
Ieremia copped a head knock against University and will miss Saturday’s clash against Lake Macquarie.
“He didn’t receive a blue card but he did get a knock,” Young said. “You can’t be too cautious when it comes to player welfare.”