Melbourne Rebels hooker Efi Ma'afu says reuniting with some familiar faces has made the transition to his new club a “breeze”, despite a whirlwind three months of international travel and relocation.
Ma'afu signed with Melbourne back in June, having just relocated back to his hometown in Brisbane, following a five-game stint playing for the Sunwolves in Japan.
The twenty-two-year-old says the support he’s received from his new teammates has been first-class and that he’s excited for his new Super Rugby AU opportunity playing with the Rebels.
“It’s been crazy - just a couple of months ago I was in Japan, then back in Brisbane and then bang - shoot off straight to Melbourne and now obviously Canberra and Sydney,” said Ma'afu.
“But transition wise, coming into the team has been really easy for me because I already knew a couple of the boys coming through.
“Ponney, Jordy, Rob, Esei and Trevor – that’s our little crew, whom I’ve known from playing in the 20’s and stuff like that (Under 20 representative teams and Junior Wallabies matches).
“So, they’ve been good at helping me and showing me all the good spots to eat around town, which has really helped me feel welcome from the get-go.
“I’ve loved being around the team and yeah, I’m just really enjoying my time with the guys so far.”
Ma'afu has hit the ground running with his new club, playing in the Rebels opening two Vodafone Super Rugby AU games against the Brumbies and the Reds.
Reflecting upon last Friday’s clash with Queensland, Ma'afu says that while the result didn’t go the way the Rebels had wanted, playing at the historic Brookvale Oval was a special personal moment.
“I’ve never played there before in my career, but the place was pretty energetic – especially the energy we got from the crowd, which helped make it a good place to play at.
“Playing at Brookvale Oval gave me some good flashbacks to my club rugby years.
“I can remember some really good matches watching Manly play at Brookvale Oval on tv, so it was really cool to actually be a part of.”
The former Junior Wallaby said he enjoyed being involved in the first Super Time period in Super Rugby AU history, though it may take his body some time to get used to.
“I thought I was dying inside to be honest – the legs are gone but you‘ve just got to keep running.
“But it’s funny in that you don’t really have the chance to be nervous – you just got to keep going and go again and again and approach it like it’s another end of a back half.
“I remember playing every moment like it was your last, being out there with so many crucial moments happening all over the field.
“I do think it’s great because it gives you that extra opportunity to help your team – for example if you’re not playing that well, that extra time could be your moment to shine which I think is great for everyone.”
With the Rebels embarking on their first bye week of the Super Rugby AU season, Ma‘afu hopes to visit a few of Sydney’s iconic landmarks, before shifting his attention to next Friday’s Round 4 clash with the Waratah’s at the SCG.
“It’ll be good - I’ll be doing a couple of running sessions and just get away from footy and maybe hit up the beaches - thinking Bondi, actually definitely Bondi.
“But then when we get back to training this week, we’ll focus a lot on our set pieces.
“The Tahs obviously came off a win against the Force, so they’re playing some good footy which will be a really good test for us boys coming off a bye.”