It’s not every day that a rugby side gets to replace one departing international No. 9, with another internationally capped scrumhalf.
Yet for the Melbourne Rebels, new recruit Frank Lomani will look to fill that void left by outgoing Wallaby great Will Genia.
A humble and quietly spoken figure, Lomani may seem like an inexperienced replacement at only 23 years-old, however, the Fijian halfback already possesses a playing resume most players would only dream about.
A Fijian U20s and Sevens-capped player, Lomani made his international XV’s debut for his home nation in 2017 as a 21-year-old against Samoa.
After earning five caps for Fiji, Lomani put his stamp on Australian rugby when he was crowned the 2018 NRC Player of the Year in the Fijian Drua’s championship-winning season.
His NRC season and appearances on the international stage, which has included stints with the Barbarians, proved to be a launchpad into becoming a bona-fide Fijian rugby star.
Another seven international Caps throughout 2018 and mid-2019 led into Lomani being selected for the Fijian 2019 Rugby World Cup side.
Lomani says playing three matches at the World Cup for his country was something that he would never forget and one which he cherishes dearly to this day.
“It was quite an experience as it was my first world cup,” Lomani said.
“At that level, I was a bit nervous in my first game against Australia, but I believed in myself and worked hard and I was honoured to have represented Fiji and my family and anyone who lives under the Fiji flag.”
For those who watched Lomani at the World Cup, many would have seen the precise passing, clever decision-making and ferocious intensity in which the speedy scrumhalf plays with.
And while he may only be 180cm and 81kgs, Lomani says Rebels fans can get ready to see his love for tackling hard and being physical around the pitch.
“I’m fast at delivering balls and I like fast-paced games and love to work harder, not only on the field but off the field as well,” Lomani said.
“As a No.9, we usually don’t like to tackle, but I like to tackle, and I like to be physical on the field.”
One niche fact which Rebels supporters may not know is Lomani could have been with the Club much earlier than the 2020 season.
In 2018, Lomani was invited to join the side in preseason training sessions as part of a Pacific Combine held in Melbourne which featured talented players from Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.
While a playing contract didn’t eventuate at the time, Lomani says the experience of training with a Super Rugby squad and learning off a certain Wallaby No.9 has been a big part of how he plays the game today.
“I learned a lot when I came here in 2018,” he said.
“I really learned a lot from the boys and personally from Willy G (Genia), he taught me a lot of skills and I took that away and put it into practice and I know it really helped me as an international No. 9 with box kicking and passing.
“That’s helped in games and helped me become a better player.”
With the experience he possesses, it appears Lomani is destined and determined to become a vital player in the Rebels’ 2020 season and beyond.
And Lomani’s main goal for his career at the Club and in rugby is an extremely simple one.
He just wants to be the best.
“I’ve always wanted to be the best in this sport,” Lomani said.
“I’ve said to myself, if Muhammad Ali can be the best in boxing, then I want to be the best in rugby.
“The only thing that stops people from doing that is their mentality.”
And while he may have quite a way to go to show and prove he can be the Muhammad Ali equivalent of rugby, there is one thing which people can be assured in.
Lomani will certainly not die wondering.