ADMIRE SOSAIA | Feki's coming of age
If ever you have wondered what it means for an NRL player to grab an opportunity with both hands, look no further than to Sharks winger, Sosaia Feki.
The 24-year-old will this week run out against the Cowboys for what will be his 50th first grade appearance - a feat not to be undervalued in the modern game.
Feki chalks up the NRL milestone half-way through his third season in the top grade, having been a product of the successful NZ Warriors Holden Cup side of 2011.
The softly-spoken winger made the decision to cross the Tasman ahead of the 2012 season in search of regular first grade minutes - and he said he was initially spooked at the thought of upping from Auckland and heading to Cronulla.
"We had a good backline when I was playing over there at the Warriors, the other centre was Konrad Hurrell, and they obviously signed him," he said.
"I didn't know anyone over here, it was one of the toughest things I had ever done. When I signed, and when I knew that I was coming over to the Sharks, I was pretty scared.
"My partner has helped me out a lot, and without her I don't know what would've happened."
Named as a late inclusion into the side to face the Knights in round eight of 2013, Feki debuted at the Hunter Stadium in the number '21' jersey in the place of ex-Shark Nathan Stapleton.
The Cronulla side went on to win in a Golden Point thriller that afternoon, and Feki said that it was an occasion that he'll never forget.
"You can't forget a debut game - i was up against (Akulia) Uate and I was pretty nervous," Feki said.
"I was just happy to make my debut, and we got a win out of the game too.
"I never would have imagined that I'd play first grade, but I have. Hopefully there's plenty of more years to come."
In a sign of his class and reliability, Feki held onto his place in the team for the remainder of the season, playing 19 consecutive games including finals fixtures against the Cowboys and Manly.
Capping a remarkable first season in the top grade, Feki featured at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup for Tonga, and caught the attentions of Rugby League judges.
Feki credits his first-year successes, and his good work thereafter, to his stability - both on and off the field - and the influence of his left edge partner, Ricky Leutele.
"When I came to Cronulla he took me under his wing, and we've been good friends ever since," Feki said.
"He's just one of those good guys that keeps me level-headed, and he is always there when I need someone."
The highs of 2013 were a stark contrast to the - at times - underwhelming depths of the following season. Not for the want of trying, the team struggled to string together consecutive wins, but Feki himself remained a pillar of consistency and headed the Sharks try scoring tally.
The stocky outside back's performances in 2014 would catch the eyes of the national selectors and Feki again would don Tonga's colours against Samoa in May, earlier this season.
Showing a toughness and a willingness to win, Feki played out the clash despite picking up an injury in training, the week prior.
Feki returned from a three match spell against the Roosters in round 13 - and again versus the Knights last week - and is fit and firing ahead of the Cowboys' challenge on Saturday.
"I'm up against Matty Wright this week, a former Shark, so it should be a good challenge," he said.
"I can't wait to play against him, we were all pretty good mates with Matty, and it'll be a test against him on Saturday afternoon. He's a quality player."
Renowned as one of the best dummy-half runners in the competition, Feki said he values his role in the team and is always looking to do his bit for the Sharks cause.
Now 50 matches into an NRL career, and contracted at the Club until the end of 2017, there's plenty more to come from the ever-reliable flank.
"I love it at the Sharks, it's a good place to be. It's a nice area, I couldn't really ask for more," said Feki.
"I'd like to play another 50 games, and more, at Cronulla."