Taranaki teen Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens signs with the Parramatta Eels
21 Mar 2017
For young league players, the dream is to sign on the dotted line with an NRL franchise.
Taranaki's Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens has done just that, signing on with the Parramatta Eels.
The 15-year-old Francis Douglas Memorial College student has taken up an academy offer that would see him travel to Australia for camps twice this year, before spending six months of 2018 across the ditch for the under-18s competition.
The opportunity came about through scouting at a number of national tournaments and it wasn't only the Eels who were interested in Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, with the Newcastle Knights also showing an interest.
"We had a few trainings, just to see the squad, and then a game over there and I think it just went of that really.
"It's an opportunity I couldn't really not take. I'll be experiencing everything and be getting my skills up for both rugby and league."
Now that he had signed, he said the club had been in constant contact and would be at least once a month for the rest of the year to check in on how he was doing.
It's already been a big year in terms of rugby league for the young fullback, who represented Fiji at the Pasifika Youth Cup in Auckland in February and recently was part of an under-16 Warriors invitational team to play against Auckland.
"It's pretty overwhelming. At the start it definitely was because I've liked the Eels since Jarryd Hayne was playing for them [Hayne left the club in 2014]. It's just surreal," Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens said.
His brother, Isaac, was also selected to play for the under-18 invitational tea - with the teams selected by former Warriors first-grade assistant coach Tony Iro - and said the experience was something he would bring back and apply to their games with the College team.
"They encouraged us to go back into our schools and our clubs and be leaders - to bring what we learnt up there into our teams. Things like the skills and the mindset before a game."
Isaac, a 17-year-old half, said he had been approached by an NRL club as well, but talks were in the preliminary stages.