Saifiti twins tackle NRL pre-season
It’s been a steady rise for towering twin brothers Jacob and Daniel Saifiti who in the past 12 months have cemented starting spots in the NYC under 20s competition, represented their Fijian heritage in last year’s Pacific Test before an exciting step up to fulltime pre-season training with the Newcastle Knights’ NRL squad.
It’s the latter experience the 19-year-old brothers are hoping will bode well for building successful careers in rugby league.
“We’re learning something new everyday with the experience in the team,” Jacob said.
“It’s only going to benefit me for the future."
Daniel added, “You look up to guys you’ve been watching ever since you were a kid.
“Just to learn little things here or there and the professionalism, it’s been unreal.”
Lining up alongside their skillful Fijian teammates in the Pacific Test was a surreal and incredibly proud moment for the Central Coast bred boys.
“I think it’s helped us progress into the first grade squad,” Daniel said.
“We played with guys with NRL experience like Korbin Sims and the Naiquama brothers and have picked up little things and have tried to bring it into pre-season.”
Standing at 193cms, the gigantic duo measures up taller than experienced Knights forwards Tariq Sims and Kade Snowden.
But it’s not much of an advantage when coming up against the veterans in pre-season training drills according to the twins.
“I’ve been wrestling with Kade Snowden and even though I’m bigger than him, I feel like a little boy. It’s hard,” Daniel admits.
“It doesn’t help at all, especially against guys like Jeremy Smith,” Jacob added.
“It’s going to come with experience and hopefully in a couple of years we’re going to be doing it back to them.”
After a full season with the NYC squad, their under 20s teammates have been afforded a year to get their head around telling the twins apart, but the conundrum has started from scratch since the brothers have found themselves among the ranks of the NRL players.
“It’s a struggle and they are terrible," Daniel said with a grin.
“The coach gets it wrong everyday and it seems like he gets it wrong on purpose.”
“They made me wear a hat, but even then, they still get it wrong,” Jacob mused.
“It’s mainly the coaching staff, the boys are starting to get used to it.”
It doesn’t help teammates or opponents alike when the brothers are wearing identical red and blue kit, although, dressing the same is apparently not a new phenomenon for the duo.
“Growing up we have a lot of photos of us wearing the same thing which doesn’t help, but as we’ve gotten older we’ve started to look more different which is good,” Jacob said.
While the twins are often joined at the hip away from the football field, Daniel jokes about the fact his brother now has a girlfriend has cut down the amount of time they’re by each other’s side.
“We still see each other everyday at training and most days on the weekend,” Jacob said.
Apart from the healthy competition between the brothers, which training staff says push them harder in the gym and on the training track, Jacob and Daniel possess a unique chemistry on the field they hope will provide them added advantage.
“On the field we play the same, so it helps when we’re running together,” Daniel said.
“We don’t tackle together but it helps talk-wise because we are so close.
“It’s not so much inside knowledge, but we know each other’s plays. If I take a run, Daniel will most likely take a run after and vise versa,” Jacob said.
“We know each other’s game inside and out which is always going to help a team.”
One of the biggest learning curves for the humble and softly spoken forwards has been the heightened level of communication with teammates on the training track.
“The talk in NRL compared to the NYC is heaps,” Daniel said.
“I came in and was getting blasted everyday for not talking much but now I’m used to it."
Meanwhile, they’re both lapping up the experience of learning first hand what it takes to be a first grade footballer.
“It’s just little things like being on time, doing your extras and recovery, not only being a professional on the field but off as well with diet,” he continued.
“All the boys like Tariq and Korbin (Sims) have been hammering it into us and it’s been unreal.
“Hopefully when I got back to the NYC I can take on more of a leadership role and show the younger guys coming through how do certain things with professionalism,” Jacob said.
“All the little things you need to do to become a first grade player.”
In the meantime, they still hold hope their new teammates will eventually get a handle on telling them apart.
“I hope so otherwise it’s going to be very confusing,” Daniel concluded.