Sisa Waqa says "Fijians are made to play sevens rugby", so he's excited his first opportunity with the Canberra Raiders will be in rugby league's condensed version, the Auckland Nines.
Waqa grew up idolising 1994 Raiders premiership-winner Noa Nadruku, now his first match for the Green Machine will be with Nadruku's wing partner that day, Ken Nagas.
Waqa, Nagas and new Raiders captain Jarrod Crokerwill be named on Saturday in Canberra's squad of 18 for the Auckland Nines, starting January 31.
Waqa was a member of Fiji's famous sevens rugby union program in 2005-06, before coming to Australia to pursue a professional rugby career. He only turned to league in 2009 after a deal with the ACT Brumbies fell through because of import restrictions.
"Sevens rugby is the game Fijians love the most," Waqa says. "I reckon Fijians are made to play sevens, we've been so good at that for the last two or three or decades.
"The Nines is little bit different, it's still rugby league, but it's quicker, there's a bit more space out wide and it's good for us backs. I love it, brother, I can't wait to put the Raiders jumper on and go out there with the boys to play."
Waqa got his first Raiders jersey when he was about five. His father, Eddie, who played rugby in Fiji alongside Nadruku before he was discovered by the Raiders, also represented Fiji in the rugby league world sevens. His son's only request was to bring back a Raiders jersey. Sisa Waqa finally met Nadruku in Canberra last month.
"It was pretty humbling, an honour to meet him, because he was one of my idols back in the day," Waqa said. "My dad played with him in rugby union and coached him in rugby league."
While Waqa says it will be "awesome" to play with Nagas, returning for a cameo after 13 years in retirement, he's looking forward to leading a youthful squad in Auckland. Waqa scored a club-best 17 tries for the Melbourne Storm last year.
"I do see myself as a senior player in this group but any team can win the Nines, it's all about putting young and fit players on the park and trusting them," Waqa said.
"I feel heaps better now compared to previous years, the body's feeling good and I'm injury free. I want to fight to be better than I was last year."
Having moved to Canberra alone to begin pre-season, Waqa's family – his wife Luisa, and children Sonny, Junior and Ariella – joined him last week.
"My kids and family are everything to me, they play a big role in my football. It's awesome to have them here with me again now," he said.
* The Raiders squad will meet fans at Fyshwick's Jerseys Megastore between 11am and 1pm on Saturday January 17.