In 2012, they entered the Queensland Tonga program as talented but little known teenagers who went down to training, not to necessarily make the team, but just to learn from senior players from throughout the Queensland Tongan community. That year, fate had other plans for them, in 2014 perhaps bigger plans are also ahead.
Surprisingly for both players in 2012, despite their slender years both would go onto earn unexpected selections into the Open men’s team, with the coaches no doubt bringing them on board with development purposes in the forefront of their thinking. However, a series of events during the inaugural tournament would see both players thrust into the deep end, and inevitably placed in a sink or swim situation.
A mark of their mental fortitude at such a young age and with the support of the senior group at the time, would see both players go on to have integral roles in helping win the inaugural Kings and Queens of Pacific Rugby tournament for Queensland Tonga in that year. One, would do so as a last minute halfback replacement having never played in the position before after the two preferred options succumbed to injury and the other as a winger against a dangerous Fijian side with deadly finishers on the flanks in the Grand Final. What makes the tale more remarkable is that both players completed these tasks as specialist loose forwards.
The players in question are former Toloa student Christian Filipine and Nudgee Old boy Kristian Satui. For differing reasons both players did not turn out for Queensland Tonga in 2013, Filipine due to playing rugby in France and Satui due to an ACL knee reconstruction, but fast forward to 2014, two years after gingerly entering the program as wide eyed rookies, fate has seen the two placed in a similar situation.
With so many players tied up with NRC commitments and mainstays like Mafile’o Kefu and the always reliable Mafi twins Paul and Victor from previous Queensland Tonga campaigns either retiring or moving on, it has been clear to the guys in the 2014 Queensland Tonga program holding the fort, that this year, the importance of fringe players needing to step forward and take the baton on behalf of the team and the program was absolutely paramount.
In the first weekend of the Kings and Queens of Pacific Rugby tournament at Norths Rugby Union, since first turning out for Queensland Tonga those two years ago, Filipine and Satui were absolute standouts, Filipine in his more preferred and accustomed role in the loose and Satui dividing time between the flank and at halfback.
In a team where many believed guys were arguably keeping jerseys warm for the eventual return of the Queensland Tongan NRC contingent, the performance of Filipine and Satui as well a host of others like Simana Halaifonua, Sione Mapitoa, and Kristian’s older brother Sitanisilao Satui has no doubt given Sione Fukofuka some pleasant selection headaches with the task of choosing a match day 23 in the second and third weeks of the KQPR Tournament and also with the eventual selection of the 25 man squad to play in the Monimonu Cup.
In convincing wins over Brisbane Fiji and Dreamtime, Satui and Filipine’s speed around the park, subtle passing before the line and pilfering work was there for all to see, linking well with team mates and ultimately sees their steady ascension from one time rookies to earmarked future leaders of the Queensland Tonga men’s program.
There is no doubt, Queensland Tonga will be relying on and looking for similar performances from both players and their team mates against QLD Niue and in the semi-finals to determine who will eventually play in the Grand Final in the last week of the Kings and Queens of Pacific rugby tournament. Hopefully Filipine and Satui’s roles in the team act as a good luck charm much in the same way it did in the inaugural year……Queensland Tongan supporters everywhere will be praying that is the case.