TIM Lafai will drink to a shock Samoa World Cup win if they knock over the mighty Kangaroos – after starting the tournament supping beer on his couch.
And Ligi Sao will back England to win one trophy, after denying them another.
The Super League pair’s story is very much like their nation’s. When they lost 60-6 to England on the opening day, they were as far away from Old Trafford as you could get.
Actually, Lafai was not very far as he lives nearby in Salford but what he was doing certainly did not scream, ‘I’ll be in the final against Australia.’
“I was just having a few beers at home watching on the TV in the lounge room,” he admitted.
“Playing in the final was definitely beyond my wildest dreams. I was actually sleeping and I saw a message from our coach, Matt Parish, and I thought I was dreaming.
“I woke up the next morning and thought, ‘Oh man, I had a dream that I had a message.’ Then I opened my phone and I actually had one saying, ‘We’re down on some troops, we need you to come in.’
“All I was planning to do was do a bit of training at David Lloyd in Manchester to get myself ready for pre-season at Salford! Luckily, I didn’t book any holidays to go back to Australia.
“Now because of this I’ve been given until January 3 off. It’ll be nice to freshen the body and the mind up after all this is done.
“Definitely the mind does, just to take everything that’s happened over the last two months in.”
Lafai’s comeback is far more than just being overlooked originally. Two years ago, he was directing traffic around Sydney construction sites after falling out of love with rugby league.
Had the Red Devils not come calling, the 31-year-old would have been a former player as he would have called it a day.
But England has brought a new life, even though it meant he ended some of his clubmates’ dreams, ruining pals’ hopes.
He added: “Salford have been massive. Coming over here has given me the joy for rugby league again.
“It was a big decision to move and there were loads of questions. I was on the verge of retiring when the opportunity came up. So I sat my wife and kids down and weighed up the pros and cons.
“We took that risk and we say it’s paid off. It’s given me that love for the game I lost and given me time back with my kids, I was missing out when I was working 12-hour shifts.”
Lafai is not the only Samoa player on whom England has made a big impression. Hull FC’s Sao may have helped ruin the rugby league hopes of the nation, come Monday he will be cheering on the football side.
If the Pacific islanders stun the world by beating the holders, who almost regard the trophy as their property, he will be drinking for more than one reason.
Sao said: “Living in England, I know people are passionate about sport.
“When the Euros were on last year, I was fully behind England. The kids came back from school shouting, ‘It’s coming home.’
“I was down at the local with my mates and next door neighbour cheering England on. It’ll be the same again for the football World Cup, I have to.
“We’d just moved house in Hull, just settled the kids in, when I got the call from Matt. Before that, I was going to watch the games as a fan.
“And after we beat England in the semi-final, I knew I’d be in for a bit of stick!”
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