Lousi Boys - Brothers in Arms in the NRL
As NRL debuts go, Sam Lousi's was as extraordinary as they come.by NRL
As NRL debuts go, Sam Lousi's was as extraordinary as they come.
There he was out on Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday night fulfilling his 18th man duties, helping the chosen 17 tune up for their clash against Newcastle.
The warm-up was almost at an end with kick off just a few minutes away. Big Sam, one half of the club's Lousi twin towers, was, in his words, going through the motions. After all, the 18th man's lot is seldom anything else; typically he gets kitted out, warms up with the players then leaps in the shower, gets dressed and sits on the side-line to watch the game.
This wasn't one of those typical occasions, though. Just as he thought his day's work was over - he had already played 60 minutes earlier in the day for the Auckland Vulcans - Lousi noticed bench forward Steve Rapira grab his hamstring at the very end of the warm-up. It was the cue for some frenzied activity.
Medical staff checked Rapira, team management scurried about and the next thing Lousi knew he was being told by assistant coach Tony Iro: "You're playing."
There was no time to think about anything, no time for the kind of nerve-wracking week most debutants experience leading up to their first taste of the NRL. In a few minutes the players would be running out on the field and Lousi would be going out there with them. All he knew was that at some stage in the next hour and a half or so he was going to end up on the field, not only playing in the NRL - but also playing in the same Vodafone Warriors side as his older brother Sione, maybe even alongside him. Not since 2004 had brothers been in the same NRL side for the club.
"When Sponge (Iro) told me it just hit me. I couldn't believe it," said Sam after the match.
"All the family were there to watch my brother and suddenly they were going to be watching me, too."
There would be time to think about his role in the game as he sat on the bench for 70-odd minutes before his moment came.
"Sponge called my name and told me just to run hard. I had a few butterflies but I was pretty happy to get on," he said.
The 198cm, 116kg man mountain was thrust into the contest as the Vodafone Warriors were desperately trying to steal it with the Knights leading 24-19; and, as fate would have it, he was also out there in the heat of the battle with Sione beside him.
There might have been only eight minutes left but the big man put himself about effectively, carrying the ball strongly five times for 40 minutes and making six tackles without a miss.
No one admired Sam's effort more than Sione, the small one of the pair at only 191cm, who's having a watershed season after appearing in every one of the Vodafone Warriors' 18 NRL matches so far.
As siblings go, these Lousi boys are tight. They still live at home with mum and dad, even share the same bedroom, are both big PlayStation fans and are also among the club's most active Twitter users.
So soon after the game Sione tweeted: "Disappointing loss we'll be back! was good to play with the bro @SamLousi tho. proud of him!"
And Sam reciprocated: "Thanks tweeps for the msgs. Real happy to play with the bro @LowCeee also playing with the rest of the brothers!"
This was how the big Lousi boys dreamed it would be one day.
When the club announced last March that the brothers had been signed on extended contracts, they were mutually motivated to play for the Vodafone Warriors together without ever imagining their opportunity would come about in such a dramatic manner. Indeed this was the first time they'd been in the same side together since their days at St Paul's College, the Auckland school which has proved such a fertile breeding ground for top-level rugby league talent.
For Sam the NRL dream has just started. He played in each of the Vodafone Junior Warriors' NYC premiership-winning sides in 2010 and 2011 before stepping up to the NRL squad this year.
Until last Saturday night, his playing lot this season had been confined to a regular back rower's spot with the Vulcans in the New South Wales Cup. He hasn't missed a match for them all year but it's likely he will now with the prospect of being named in the squad to travel to Perth later in the week for Saturday's clash against Manly.
Whatever happens in the future Sam Lousi won't forget the day or the way he became Vodafone Warrior No 175 - and all the day after his 21st birthday on July 20. It doesn't get much better ... although a win would have helped.
* The Lousi brothers, who played in NRL trials together this year, become the fourth set of brothers to play in the same side for the Vodafone Warriors in an official first-grade match. Foundation Vodafone Warrior Tea Ropati did so with his brother Iva during Iva's seven-game first-grade career in 1996-1997 as did Vinnie and Louis Anderson in 2004 (before Vinnie headed to England). Current Vodafone Warriors welfare and education manager Jerry Seuseu, who played 132 times for the club, had his brother Anthony alongside him in his only NRL game against Brisbane in 2001.
* Sam and Steve Rapira have played trial matches together for the Vodafone Warriors but are yet to appear in the same NRL side.
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