Kevin Naiqama helps local communities away from rugby in Wembley build-up07/16/2021
KEVIN Naiqama hopes to send his and St Helens’ Wembley hoodoos packing – after packing up something much more essential, food parcels.
Then the Fiji captain will be found kneeling in prayer on the pitch thanking someone altogether more almighty than the match winner.
Centre Naiqama may have dominated opponents as Saints became two-time Super League champions.
But away from the field, he can be found getting almost as stuck in at Liverpool’s Hillsong Church, making sure its impact is felt in its community.
He and wife Lily are keen members and when the call went out for help, they were more than prepared to answer it.
Naiqama, a keen piano player, said: “Just a couple of weeks ago we helped pack some food that was being given out to families in the area.
“We went down with a couple of other members just to help out. Outside of rugby, that’s become our network and we really try to do things with it.
“I was lucky as Hillsong, where I attended back home, opened a campus in Liverpool. That made it easier for us to settle as outside of rugby, that is our community.
“We’ve made friends we’ll hold dear to us even when we move back to Australia.
“Services are on Sundays but we have little groups that meet on Wednesdays just to talk about the Bible and give some messages to encourage us through the week.
“And after the game, myself and other Christian players get together to thank God for the talent we have, the ability he’s blessed us with and for the safety and health of the players and their families for the rest of the season.”
Naiqama and Lily may be heading back to Australia at the end of the season as his on-field future remains uncertain.
If they do, they will be taking back two things that are uniquely English, daughter Maia and the love of a good old Sunday roast.
However, it has not always been plain sailing, particularly with a global pandemic preventing them seeing relatives back home and them coming here.
The 32-year-old added: “Australia was all we’d ever known. It was a big move, especially as I’m so family orientated. They’re my best friends.
“We were hoping to fly my mum over here last year but circumstances meant that couldn’t happen.
“We had to start from scratch. We’d left everything we’d ever known.
“It’s harder for wives and partners. Lily works as a personal trainer, now she’s running her own business online and is juggling that with being a mother. I’m really proud of her doing that.
“And it’s harder for players who are on the other side of the world, especially those with young kids, having talked to other players that are over here.
“But it’s been a great experience. I did my homework on St Helens as a club before coming and I’d watched them in the past. They brought home a lot of silverware and I wanted to be a part of that.
“I’ve been welcomed with open arms by the community and England will be special as our daughter was born here in December.
“And from life in England, Sunday roast is a big thing. That’s definitely something English that I’ve really enjoyed. It’s a very English thing to do.
“Everything is going well here with Covid-19 protocols and we’re just excited to play at such a historic ground. Everything’s been put in place to protect the players.
“We’ve done really well in keeping to the rules but our Covid-19 officer, Charlie Wilton, is the busiest person at the club!”
Naiqama would have good reason to stay as far away from Wembley as possible. His record there is played two, lost two.
A 64-0 thrashing by Australia with Fiji in 2013 was followed by 2019’s surprise Challenge Cup final defeat by Warrington, so ending that and Saints’ 13-year drought will be extra special.
He said: “It’s said Wembley’s the worst place to lose. Well I’ve experienced the not so good side of Wembley in losing.
“Winning would be massive for the team, the club and the town. It’s been a long time since we won the cup and we strive to win trophies.”
Source: Read Full Article