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Storm’s Fiji, PNG stars make big leap from reserves to NRL finals

Kamikamica broke into the side early in the season and has largely held his place, playing 20 games as a bench prop who throws his powerful frame into game when the opposition is tired.

Tui Kamikamica tackles Maika Sivo during the Storm's semi-final win over Parramatta.

Tui Kamikamica tackles Maika Sivo during the Storm’s semi-final win over Parramatta.Credit:AAP

Olam was well behind in the line to play in the Storm’s outside backs at the beginning of the year but his strong form and some untimely injuries allowed him to play against the Roosters in a win at Adelaide Oval in round 15. He’s remained as a starting centre ever since.

Olam admits he thought his good mate would be in the side for the finals but he never thought he would be alongside him.

“Not at all,” Olam exclaimed.

“I could see him playing some more NRL games because of how well he was going for Sunny Coast. But I would never have thought I would play with him in finals this year.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

Justin Olam.

Justin Olam.Credit:Getty Images

Kamikamica and the rest of the Storm love how Olam runs at defences with no fear.

But playing together was only a dream as they watched last year’s finals.

“We were just sitting on the sidelines watching them. It’s been a good experience for me and Juzzie,” Kamikamica said.

“Sometimes I’m pinching myself to be playing alongside all these good players.”

The pair, along with Fijian winger Suliasi Vuivalu, all draw massive followings back home and you can expect scores of villagers in both nations to be crowded around small televisions on Saturday night.

“We have got a TV in my house now, back in the day there were only a few in the village,” Kamikamica said.

“Now everyone will come to my place on Saturday, sit around the kava bowl and wait to watch the game.

“There will be heaps of people watching the game. There is more than 500 in my village. It will be a good Saturday afternoon back in the islands. That’s for sure.”

Last Saturday Storm played Parramatta in an elimination semi-final but the locals in Fiji were focused on their first love, rugby union, as Fiji was playing the Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup earlier in the afternoon.

Luckily for the Storm’s Fijians, the rugby side lost to Uruguay on Thursday so won’t be clashing with their game this time.

Olam has a similar experience. He tells stories of his family needing to buy petrol to fire up the generator so they can watch him play on TV.

Whether he is playing or not, he said the locals would be watching both NRL preliminary finals with rapt attention.

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The connection between those who grow up in the islands is a close one. They share not only a similar upbringing but similar challenges to adjusting to life in the big city, and the challenges of taking care of family back home but still living comfortably in Australia.

“The way we do things is similar to them,” Olam said.

“The type of food we eat. The little things like music and some similarities in our culture let us get along together.

“But in saying that, it’s no different from all the other boys at Storm.

“We all have this thing where we support each other, help each other and that has helped me as well.”

While talk this week was about how the Storm would adjust to playing on an oval ground, one wonders how the likes of Olam and Kamikamica have learned to handle playing in front of stadium crowds far bigger than their home villages.

“It’s funny. Once I get out on the field to play footy I don’t think about the crowd and stuff,” Kamikamica said.

“But sometimes I watch it again and I think, ‘How big is the crowd?’ I’m shocked.

“I just want to grab this opportunity with both hands and do my best to help us get the right result.”

The Storm play Sydney Roosters at the SCG on Saturday at 7.50pm.

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