Super Rugby


Long way to the top for Setu

“I’ll play prop if I have to.”

That is the gung-ho attitude of mature-aged rookie Waita Setu that, if it catches on, could help the St.George Queensland Reds to their first win of the 2016 Super Rugby season.

After a frustrating six-year wait for his professional Rugby debut, the Reds flanker does not care about what number he wears, only that he has the opportunity to add to his two-game tally when the Reds host Auckland’s Blues on Saturday night.

It was less than a month ago when he daydreamed about a top flight debut while working in the pre-dawn darkness at the Rocklea Markets.

That, and helping out with his father’s painting business, were his only sources of income while the devoted father awaited the birth of his second child.

“I’d thought about giving (Rugby) away,” the 24-year-old said.

“Then this came out of nowhere. I was thinking about the Reds’ offer and my wife told me I had nothing to lose.

“So I jumped at it and a few days later I was playing against the Waratahs.”

The Reds’ performance at the breakdown improved dramatically despite the knife-edge loss to the Rebels and much of it was to do with Setu’s impact.

In his first start for the side, he earned an early penalty and made life difficult for the Rebels’ ball runners.

“I basically had to learn in five days what the rest of the squad had been working on for a whole pre-season,” Setu said.

“I sought a lot of advice from Liam Gill who I’d rate one of, if not the, best openside flanker in Australia. I set myself the goal not allowing the Rebels any steals while I was on the field.
“That’s just how I approached it – go as hard as I can.”

Should it continue, Setu’s Super Rugby career would become an inspiring story of persistence and hard work.

In 2009 he was tipped as a rising star when selected in an Australian schoolboys team featuring Gill, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Scott Sio and Nick Stirzaker.

While the others made rapid transitions into Super Rugby, Setu made an unsuccessful code switch with the Broncos and Storm, endured a knee reconstruction in 2012 and missed out on Rugby contracts after trialling with North Harbour and Melbourne Rebels in recent years.

After shedding almost 10kg in league, Setu developed into a powerful and mobile openside but was expecting his Rugby journey would be limited to playing under his former Nudgee College 1st XV coach Todd Dammers at GPS.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” he said.

“It’s been tough getting noticed but I feel 24 is still pretty young in Rugby terms.

“All I can do now is treat every game like it’s my last.”

Rugby Traveller