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'Worth the challenge': Rugby-convert Fifita ready for NRL

It was a hot summer night when Jojo Fifita burst onto the scene as a prospective Titan with a bright future.

Winning the battle against Kotoni Staggs in the early pre-season trial in February, it's only fitting the 19-year-old gets another crack against the Broncos on Saturday night, but this time for real, set to become cap #173 and make his NRL debut in the local derby at Cbus Super Stadium.

In his first hit out in Gold Coast colours, the star rugby-convert ran for 117 metres and notched up a try assist and a line break assist in the outing, putting his name up in lights and becoming a player scribed in everyone's black book as one to watch as the season progressed.

Starting the year for Tweed, the son of former Tongan rugby star Pila Fifita piled on the points in the opening rounds of the Hostplus Cup and quickly found himself on coach Justin Holbrook's radar.

A call-up into Queensland's Under 19 side allowed the Coast junior to spend the week in camp and continue learning in the elite level environment, before getting the magical call on Monday to say he was destined to fulfil his NRL dream.

But it almost wasn't to be for the New Zealand-born young gun, who many thought was destined to follow in his father's footsteps after playing rugby his whole life and attending The Southport School which dominates in the sport they claim to play in heaven.

"I grew up playing rugby union my whole life. I think I started when I was in Japan when I was four years old and I'm pretty sure it was tackle as well... there was no touch back then," Fifita reminisced.

"I moved around a bit and still played rugby union when I was school at TSS.

"But straight out of school in my first year, I signed with the Titans and trained with them. It was a bit different, but I got used to it.

"It was definitely a big change I reckon, but it was worth the challenge."

A sprint champion in his early years and even scoring four tries in front of Wallabies coach Dave Rennie when at school, there was one deciding factor when it came to why Fifita opted to sign on the dotted line for the Titans... family.

"It all comes back to family because the Titans is pretty close to home - it's only 15 minutes down the road and I didn't want to risk moving away and then getting homesick or something like that and then not performing well," Fifita shared.

"I'd rather just stay here at this point with my family and friends and then perform the best I can with the familiar environment."

Knowing he's had to work extraordinarily hard to adjust to the unique differences and nuances of rugby league as opposed to rugby union, the extensive pre-season at full fitness has filled the youngster with plenty of confidence as he prepares for his first crack on the big stage.

"I was a bit nervous at the start (of the year), but I think after one or two games, I was definitely getting better," Fifita said.

"Once I got to know the boys (at Tweed) a lot more, it was so much better because I didn't get to train with them because I was training here and then maybe only joining them for the captain's run.

"It was definitely tough, especially when you don't know the boys first off, but I'm pretty good with them now and I'm definitely feeling more confident in my game.

"I spent the whole pre-season this year actually training instead of being in the corner doing rehab and fitness (unlike last year when recovering from a shoulder injury).

"I think that pre-season has really helped me to have an alright start this year and I feel a lot better than I was last year."

As the teen sensation approaches his first official clash in the NRL, the person he'll draw the most motivation from will be his father - who was once in the same situation he is in today.

“Dad has been a huge inspiration," Fifita shared in a recent sit-down with Joel Gould.

"His best advice has been to keep doing all the little one-percenters that other people don’t know about.

"Even when they don’t know you are doing it, the key is to keep doing it yourself.”

Be there for the next instalment as the rivalry re-ignites at Cbus Super Stadium this Saturday, July 16. Secure your seat today!

Acknowledgement of Country

Gold Coast Titans proudly acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are situated, the Kombumerri families of the Yugambeh Language Region. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continuing connections to the lands, waters and their extended communities throughout South East Queensland.