Young Fiji Bati fullback Sunia Turuva’s only wish was for his mum to witness his Test debut.
Turuva told NRL.com that he deliberately avoided his family all week as the emotion would be too much for him.
A future star for the premiership-winning Penrith Panters, Turuva played the biggest game of his life so far, put the NRL on notice with 2 tries and running for 252 metres in Fiji’s loss to Papua New Guinea.
Family and friends were on hand at Campbelltown Sports Stadium to cheer on an emerging Fijian star who has endured a difficult two-year period while chasing his rugby league dream.
The Turuva family has suffered a tragedy with the loss of their western Sydney home and prized possessions in a house fire in 2020 before the 21-year-old’s mother Salote passed suddenly in September last year.
Turuva started a fundraiser to try and help his family financially.
His extended family all wore custom-made T-shirts with a photo of his late mum, almost bringing the Panthers young gun to tears before kick-off.
Turuva said he only knew around six players in Fiji’s squad prior to going into camp last week but now leaves with new mates and a Test debut that’s left him craving for more at the top level.
He will now turn his attention to pushing for an NRL debut in the Panthers’ star-studded backline with selection a possibility in round 18 given the club’s high Origin representation.