Kirkby Lonsdale's Australian import Sam Latu looks to make rugby waves this season (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Kirkby Lonsdale's Australian import Sam Latu looks to make rugby waves this season
Fresh from the Australian surf and eager to make a splash in domestic rugby is one antipodean powerhouse who has been thrown in at the deep end.
Currently plying his trade at Underley Park is Kirkby Lonsdale’s latest recruit Sam Latu, who has swapped his life Down Under for a Cumbrian sporting adventure.
The 21-year-old hails from Wollongong, a seaside city in New South Wales overlooking the Pacific Ocean, close to the first attempted Australian landing site of Captain James Cook back in 1770.
Embarking on an expedition of his own, the winger-cum-centre introduced himself to the Rams travelling faithful during the defeat at Warrington earlier this month.
And while the whole globe was Latu’s oyster, he signed on the dotted line and joined the ranks of John Pickthall’s side after pitching himself on a player recruitment website.
And his jetlag had barely subsided before the fixture list unleashed him against old foes Kendal on Saturday, with Latu keen for his rugby education to blossom.
“The derby was a great game to play in, a little fiery perhaps but overall a good, honest and physical game,” he said.
“I ended up here after putting myself on Inside Running, a website which helps with player recruitment, in a bid to get a move.
“Anywhere in the world was a possibility, not just England, but I was picked up by Kirkby Lonsdale’s president and I ended up here.
“I haven’t judged the standard of rugby yet but I feel I’m acclimatising well. I’m sure we’ll come up against some top teams as the season progresses and we’ll look to improve as a unit.
“I have a visa for two years and the plan is to make an impact here in England like so many other Australians have over the years.
“I hope to do some travelling while I’m here as well and make some money working. My flight home is booked for the end of the season but there may be the potential to stay.”
Code-breaker Latu, who has Tongan parents, was brought up on a southern hemisphere diet of rugby union but had a year away playing rugby league.
He made his return this season for local side Woonona having previously played in the premier grade rugby trophy in New South Wales.
Latu represented Southern Districts in the Shute Shield although thoughts of the big city are no longer at the forefront of the Australian’s mind.
He now struts his stuff in League One North West after the IT skills of club president John Townson brought the rampaging ex-Rebels centre onto the Kirkby Lonsdale radar.
“Sam was signed after consulting the Inside Running website which allows players to be recruited from Australia and New Zealand,” said Townson.
“We were looking at players to strengthen the squad and keep us competitive in our division.
“All the references we had about him were good and suggested he was a fast player in the centre so that sounded promising.
“You go down the line of exploring different ways of recruiting players and seeing what is out there and it’s always a bit of a risk but hopefully it’s a gamble that will prove successful.
“We are strictly an amateur club and any help, financial or otherwise, comes from individual members.
“Friends of Kirkby Lonsdale Rugby Club brought him over and he’s been found some work and accommodation.”
Latu’s name will go down in Underley Park folklore having formed an integral part of the Kirkby side which momentously beat Kendal at Mint Bridge on Saturday.
While the club’s president was unable to witness the game first-hand, he has been brought up to speed with the side’s performance, and indeed that of Latu.
Pleased with the club’s investment so far, Townson firmly believes Latu is more than capable of enhancing his reputation and making waves as the season progresses.
“Unfortunately I was not able to attend Saturday’s game with Kendal as I’m currently in Spain,” he added.
“But that was a real history-making occasion and Sam played his part in that. He’s settling down and fitting in well by all accounts.
“He’s a big, strong lad who will hopefully prove a successful acquisition for the club.”
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