As an Aquis Titans club milestone that took 215 NRL games in almost nine seasons. For David Hala as an individual goal, it took over nine months and a lot of toil and heartache.
And when he became the 100th Titans player as he made his club debut against Melbourne Storm yesterday he was privileged to have a “cousin” by his side in fellow 2015 new boy Agnatius Paasi.
It’s the second debut moment they have shared together, and there was almost a third.
The pair are related through their mothers’ side of their families. Paasi’s grand-mother is Hala’s mother’s sister, so they think that makes them second cousins.
Whatever the official link, they’ve become close and both were delighted the 26-year-old Hala’s tough season with knee injury saw him join the side for the Melbourne trip after Eddy Pettybourne joined Nate Myles on the absent list.
Last October, they were roommate as they made their international debuts for Tonga against Papua New Guinea at Lae.
And when ‘Iggy’ made his debut in round 19 last season for the Warriors, it was against Hala’s Brisbane club. However Hala missed selection after playing the previous round but making way for the Broncos’ Origin representatives.
Both played in the pre-season trial against the Warriors in Toowoomba in February but Hala injured his knee after playing strongly, and battled it for ensuing months while playing for Burleigh Bears. Meanwhile, Paasi has played 14 NRL games for the Titans.
“It’s a privilege to debut for the Gold Coast Titans and particularly with the blokes I played with yesterday,” said Hala, nicknamed ‘Papa’, from recovery at North Burleigh beach this morning.
“To get by debut for the club (he played 37 games for the Broncos from 2009-14) and be the 100th player was fantastic. It has been a frustrating year but I just had to get through it.
“We just couldn’t capitalise when we had some opportunities on their line in the second half and if you open up a bit in defence they’re such a good side, they’ll take advantage of it.
“It’s been a long time coming for me, with a lot of ups and downs with injury. But to finally get into the team and get through fine was great. I just wish we could have kept it going and won.
“The knee is fine now and I hope to get another chance in the team.
“What made it better was to do it with family, with Iggy being a second cousin.
“We debuted together for Tonga against PNG last season, which our families were really proud about, so we’ve become pretty close. It was great to share this debut with him too.”
Hala became the twelfth Titans debutant this season which shows how vastly the squad has changed. He joined Josh Hoffman, Pettybourne, Kierran Moseley, Ryan Simpkins, Matt Robinson, Lachlan Burr, Kane Elgey, Nene Macdonald, Chad Redman, Nathaniel Peteru and the 24-year-old Paasi.
His life has changed since he decided to take up a “train and trial” offer and gamble on a career in Australia after leaving Auckland months after his one NRL game for the Warriors last year.
He has now been rewarded with a two-year deal while Hala has next season to run on his current contract.
“It was great to be chosen for Tonga last year; it was unexpected and then I walked in and didn’t realise my roomie was big Dave,” smiled Paasi. “Then we ended up at the Titans together this year.
“He got injured early in the season and I have been hoping to play with him and it was good to finally do it against the Storm, although we didn’t get away with the win.
“I thought we came out strong with then intention to use the ball but we just couldn’t keep at it in the second half; we were responsible for some defensive errors and also coughed up a bit of ball.
“But it was good to see Dave getting stuck in. I feel really happy for him.”