Oneone and only Koli eyes a crack at the NRL

KOLI Oneone is one of the biggest men in the Bundaberg Rugby League and he's chasing one thing.

Opportunity.

A former junior Warrior, Oneone scored six tries in his 15 games for New Zealand's National Youth Competition team in 2015-16.

Oneone was on his way to the National Rugby League when he was 18. Asked to bulk up, it triggered what was an unlucky few years.

"They wanted him to put the weight on. A few injuries later and he fell off the radar," Hervey Bay coach Jai Ingram said.

Rugby league - Hervey Bay Seagulls V. Isis Devils. Seagull's Koli Oneone makes a break.
Rugby league - Hervey Bay Seagulls V. Isis Devils. Seagull's Koli Oneone makes a break. Alistair Brightman

Ingram and Oneone's link lies in manager Gavin Orr.

Orr previously managed Ingram while he was in the NRL system.

It only took a few phone calls to deliver the Otahuhu native to Hervey Bay.

"Gavin called me and said he had this kid, and if we could give him an opportunity to play in Australia," Ingram said.

Oneone started his career as a back-rower, but shifted to the outside backs when he was in under-16s.

He's been there ever since.

At Hervey Bay, he forms a lethal left-side combination with speedster Billy Stefaniuk, a try-scoring freak in his own right but now with the added bonus of playing alongside the behemoth centre.

COMBO: Koli Oneone plays centre inside speedster Billy Stefaniuk (pictured), creating one of the most dangerous left-side combinations in the Bundaberg Rugby League.
COMBO: Koli Oneone plays centre inside speedster Billy Stefaniuk (pictured), creating one of the most dangerous left-side combinations in the Bundaberg Rugby League. Alistair Brightman

"He's a wrecking ball, he just has to work on his fitness," Ingram said.

Therein lies Oneone's biggest challenge.

The 20-year-old increased his size when requested, but the pressure is on outside backs to boast elite fitness levels, and look the part.

"He just has to get fit and lose some of the weight. If forwards have to look fit then the centres and wingers have to look and be super-fit," Ingram said.

Oneone said his goal for this year was to reach the Sunshine Coast Falcons, then work towards what he hopes is a start for Melbourne Storm.

Ingram has no doubt Oneone can make it happen, and the centre is focussed on making it a reality.

Oneone has played all three Seagulls games so far, scoring one try and terrorising rival defenders.

Rugby League - Seagulls V. Brothers. Koli Oneone(Seagulls).
Rugby League - Seagulls V. Brothers. Koli Oneone(Seagulls). Alistair Brightman

"I'm slowly getting used to the hot weather. It's more the fitness, but I probably need to change the jersey sizes - I couldn't breathe in this out there," he added with a laugh.

"The speed is way faster than back in New Zealand but the contact was heavier back then."

Oneone was a notable (and sizable) omission from the Bundaberg rep side that competed at the 47th Battalion Carnival.

Ingram said he had no doubt Oneone would be picked if the competition was held at the end of the year, though selectors opted for the experienced Shaun Collins and The Waves' speed machine Trent Seeds in the centres.

Oneone will use it as motivation for the rest of the season, where his goals are to become a player who actively participates for the whole 80 minutes - "not just watching on the wing" - scores tries, and force his way into the Falcons' Intrust Super Cup squad in 2018.

He has a much better idea of what to expect after his time at the junior Warriors.

"It was tough, my debut, there was a lot of pressure. I hadn't played in front of a crowd like that," he said.

A bigger crowd will await if he makes it.



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