NRL: Canberra Raiders' Mikaele Ravalawa chasing a dream with nothing more than a backpack

NRL: Canberra Raiders' Mikaele Ravalawa chasing a dream with nothing more than a backpack

The clothes he was wearing and the backpack slung over his shoulders were all Mikaele Ravalawa brought with him when he joined the Canberra Raiders.

It was all he packed and he wasn't going back to Fiji for about 10 months - but that's "just the simplicity" of the kid that would go on to win Canberra's under 20s player of the year award.

Canberra Raiders recruit Mikaele Ravalawa will play in the World Cup.

Canberra Raiders recruit Mikaele Ravalawa will play in the World Cup.Credit:Raiders Media

Raiders assistant coach Brett White, who finished in his post as head coach of the National Youth Competition side at the end of the season, thinks you're lucky if you get can get Ravalawa to say a word.

He's quiet off the field, but throw him in a football jumper and the raw talent is instantly clear.


Now Ravalawa has a chance to shine on international rugby league's biggest stage when he represents Fiji at the World Cup - and he could play at his new home when the Bati play Italy at Canberra Stadium on November 10.

White says it was "a massive move for a young boy out of Fiji to come and chase a dream for himself" - but rarely did Ravalawa seem daunted by the occasion.

"When [Raiders welfare manager David Thom] went to pick him up from the airport when he first arrived, they met him at the gate and he had his backpack with him," White said.

"They took him down to the luggage carousel and they were waiting down there, waiting and waiting. All the bags had come and all the bags went.

"They asked Mika where his bag was and all he said was 'my backpack'.

"He'd moved to Australia to come and live for 10 months before he was going to go home, and he'd come with just a backpack. He just came out with a backpack to come and chase a dream."

It took some time for Ravalawa to come out of his shell during his first full season of rugby league, leaving behind his family in the small Fijian village in Galoa.

But know he's heading into camp with a name known worldwide in Jarryd Hayne, and NRL stars Kevin Naiqama, Akuila Uate, and Ashton and Korbin Sims.

Ravalawa scored 12 tries in 22 games for the Green Machine's under 20s outfit this year and White says being around those household names will do him "the world of good".

The dream is set to continue next year with Ravalawa set to earn a full-time deal with the Raiders - and "who knows what can happen" from there.

"It took some work to slowly get him to feel comfortable enough to talk," White said.

"You're never going to get a lot out of him but it's good to see that he's been able to adjust to life here in Canberra and his footy has grown, I guess that's the best way to describe it.

"He's really grown as a person, you don't get a lot out of him when you talk to him, but slowly he started to open up."

"They plan on bringing him through the Mounties system and playing against men, week in, week out, and who knows? Who knows what can happen for him next year?"

Ravalawa has put on eight kilograms since touching down in Canberra after he was poached from a rugby union program by Raiders recruitment guru Peter Mulholland.

It took him some time to get used to the 13-a-side game but now he's primed to face the best in the world with 10 Raiders players set to turn out for five different nations in the World Cup.


England: Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead

New Zealand: Jordan Rapana and Joseph Tapine

Papua New Guinea: Kurt Baptiste and Kato Ottio


Samoa: Joey Leilua, Junior Paulo, Josh Papalii

Fiji: Mikaele Ravalawa

Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times

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