Watch the Super League Grand Final dwell on Sky Sports Arena from 5pm on Saturday (kick-off 6pm)
By Marc Bazeley
Last Updated: 08/10/19 three:31pm
Kevin Naiqama has loved a formidable first season with St Helens
As Kevin Naiqama stands at a desk giving interviews in Old Trafford’s Evolution Suite on the media day for this Saturday’s Grand Final, on the wall behind him is a big image displaying how the bottom has modified from its early years to the current day.
Whether accidentally or design, the place the St Helens centre has chosen to place himself in is fairly applicable as he has been attempting to absorb each the sporting and cultural history of the UK since arriving on these shores late final yr.
The truth his first season with Saints has seen him grace a few of England’s most iconic and historic sporting venues – Anfield for Magic Weekend, Wembley for the Challenge Cup ultimate – is one thing which makes Naiqama’s eyes gentle up and provides to his experiences thus far.
Live Betfred Super League
October 12, 2019, 5:00pm
“Me and my wife are trying to get around to a few museums because one thing England holds is a lot of history,” Naiqama instructed Sky Sports. “We’ve been attempting to get to know England quite a bit higher like that.
“But in the event you speak about history, Old Trafford is one place wealthy in quite a lot of history. We’ve acquired to play at Wembley, Anfield and now Old Trafford within the area of 10 months.
“It’s been an incredible experience for me and I’ve definitely enjoyed it.”
“We’ve got to play at Wembley, Anfield and now Old Trafford in the space 10 months. It’s been an incredible experience for me and I’ve definitely enjoyed it.”
Having spent his whole skilled profession in Australia previous to this season – enjoying for Newcastle Knights, Penrith Panthers and Wests Tigers – the Fiji worldwide jumped on the alternative to check himself in Super League when approached by St Helens.
He was joined by good pal Joseph Paulo, marking the primary time the 2 have performed for a similar membership after years of regularly being up in opposition to one another within the NRL, together with serving to the method of settling into a brand new life 1000’s of miles from house.
“We were friends back in Australia, but we’ve always played against each other,” Naiqama mentioned. “To lastly be signing for a group the place we’re enjoying on the identical facet helps, and our wives knew one another as nicely.
Joseph Paulo is now Kevin Naiqama’s team-mate after years of enjoying in opposition to one another
“It’s good that they had a mutual pal transferring over right here, however the entire neighborhood have been excellent and made it quite a bit simpler settling in.
“It took some time to settle in due to how completely different it is culturally, however extra so transferring away from your loved ones and pals – I feel that was the toughest bit.
“But the entire group and the neighborhood of St Helens have been so welcoming, it is positively made it quite a bit simpler for me and my spouse to settle in on this facet of the world.”
Naiqama has rapidly proven why Saints head coach Justin Holbrook introduced him in, incomes one of many centre berths in Super League’s Dream Team for 2019 – though the person himself insists the credit score for the excellent debut season he has loved ought to go to his team-mates.
In coming to this nation, the 30-year-old adopted within the footsteps of his brother, Wes, who loved two seasons with London Broncos earlier than retiring as a consequence of a knee damage.
The elder of the Naiqama siblings was in a position to provide recommendation from his time residing and enjoying in England, together with somebody to share the ups and downs of being an expert athlete with, and he shall be at Old Trafford to observe as St Helens tackle Salford Red Devils within the Grand Final.
Kevin Naiqama’s brother Wes in motion for London Broncos
“He’s been by the identical course of, the journey, the preparation and [how to] mentally put together your self,” Naiqama said. “It helps quite a bit when you possibly can lean on somebody like that, particularly when it is your older brother.
“He liked his time over right here, residing in London for 4 years and would have stayed a bit longer if he may.
“He’s flown over right here for this sport to return and watch, and it is so good to have him over right here and share this expertise with him.”
The Challenge Cup ultimate defeat was laborious to take for St Helens
St Helens go into this yr’s Grand Final as favourites, having claimed the League Leaders’ Shield by a report margin of 16 factors and vanquished defending champions Wigan Warriors 40-10 within the play-offs to achieve Old Trafford.
The Challenge Cup ultimate defeat to Warrington Wolves in August serves as a well timed reminder nothing could be taken with no consideration, although, one thing Naiqama is conscious about.
“What it got here right down to was who the higher group was on the day,” Naiqama said. “We’ve been essentially the most constant facet all yr, however when it comes into these massive video games you possibly can’t take that into it.
“It’s 80 minutes which decides who shall be champion, not the months main as much as it, and it is no completely different this time round.
“It’s nice that we created history in ending 16 factors prime of the league, however these 80 minutes will determine who is the actual champion for this yr.”