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John I Dent Cup: Gungahlin Eagles star Pat Tuidraki scores Japan contract to work with Jake White

From dirty nappies to professional rugby. Gungahlin Eagles back Vatiliai Tuidraki will swap his job at a childcare centre in Spence for a chance to work with a World Cup winning coach in the coming weeks.

But Tuidraki's contract with Japanese club Verblitz means more to him than the opportunity to link with former South Africa and ACT Brumbies mentor Jake White.

It's a chance for Tuidraki to honour his father's memory by following the family footsteps to play in the Japan Top League.

Tuidraki, better known as Pat to his friends, turned down a chance to join the Auckland Blues' extended squad two years ago to move join Gungahlin in the hope of chasing a Brumbies dream.

The 22-year-old has sparkled in the John I Dent Cup and opportunity came knocking from Japan with a chance to join the club his father played for.

Patiliai played 25 Tests for Fiji and Japan, including the 1999 World Cup, and spent the majority of his career at Verblitz after turning down a chance to join the Brumbies.


Patiliai was just 33 when he died of kidney failure in 2002. Now it's his son's turn to step up to the professional ranks.

​"I came to Canberra to try to make the Brumbies or Super Rugby, but this opportunity came up and it's a dream come true," Tuidraki said.

"My dad played here and I've always wanted to follow in his footsteps. I wouldn't say it's strange going back there because I grew up in a rugby environment.

"Part of wanted to go back [to Verblitz] but I thought I needed to establish myself first. This wasn't planned but it's an opportunity for me to grow as a player.

"And the fact that dad used to play there just makes it even more special. I was born in New Zealand but we moved to Japan when I was six months old and we were there until I was about seven."

Tuidraki will train with Gungahlin until his visa is approved but he won't play any further part in the club's John I Dent Cup campaign before he moves.

The Eagles play Easts at Griffith Oval on Saturday and will be intent on making amends for a 44-3 thumping at the hands of Royals two weeks ago.

Easts will be chasing their first win of the season while the Tuggeranong Vikings will play the Queanbeyan Whites in a grand final re-match at Viking Park.

Pat Tuidraki playing for the Gungahlin Eagles.

Pat Tuidraki playing for the Gungahlin Eagles. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Tuidraki said linking with Gungahlin was the catalyst for chasing his career dreams, praising the club and coach Dan Atkins for helping take his rugby to a new level.

The powerful inside centre was part of the Canberra Vikings' extended squad last year, but will now suit up next to professional players, including former Brumbies prop Ruan Smith.

White is joining Verblitz after a coaching stint in France and Tuidraki is keen to learn off the 2007 World Cup winner.

But before he can transition into life as a professional athlete, Tuidraki is still working shifts in childcare.

"It kind of helps working with kids and getting to talk to parents, it's improved my social skills which I'm really going to need when I move to Japan," Tuidraki said.

"I've loved it. It's pretty humbling for me to go from childcare to professional rugby. It shows that anything is possible.

"Moving to Canberra and joining Gungahlin was a blessing in disguise. My goal has always been to be the best player I can and hopefully I can achieve that."


Saturday: Easts v Gungahlin Eagles at Griffith Oval, 3.05pm; Uni-Norths Owls v Wests at ANU North, 3.05pm; Tuggeranong Vikings v Queanbeyan Whites at Viking Park, 3.25pm. Royals - bye.