The debutant Australia has taken to its heart

To most rugby fans in Ireland he was the Wallabies’ debutant hooker, an emergency selection for Michael Cheika after the first three in line fell by the wayside.

The debutant Australia has taken to its heart

Yet in his home country, Brandon Paenga-Amosa has become a national treasure thanks to his emotional singing of Advance Australia Fair before last Saturday’s opening Test.

Three days on and with a victory over the Six Nations champions to go with his first cap, the Queensland Red still cannot quite believe what went on against Ireland on his home ground in Brisbane.

“I am still pinching myself, it has been a crazy few days, so surreal, so heartwarming as well, I am just loving every single second of it,” Paenga-Amosa said, and with good reason.

A former binman born in Auckland and raised in Sydney, the 22-year-old hooker was playing club rugby for Southern Districts in the Sydney Shute Shield just a year ago when Reds head coach Brad Thorn offered him the opportunity of Super Rugby up at Suncorp Stadium.

Which in part explains the tears as he belted out his country’s anthem before kick-off.

“I was standing by Keps (tighthead prop Sekope Kepu), and he’s got a real good singing voice. He should be an opera singer, he was singing so well and I was like ‘man’. I just went for it then.

“I love Australia and Australia has done a lot for me and my family. I was really emotional in the locker rooms, and when I put on the gold jersey, when I walked out with the team, when I stood next to Keps, and Scotty (Sio, the loosehead prop), for me, it was a special moment.”

“Standing there, hearing those words, I’m thinking back to the second my parents moved over here for a better life, and it’s just the journey, the journey of me, my family, it just flashed before me and all the sacrifices we had to make to help me get to where we are today.

“For me, what got me really emotional was looking over at my family in the stands, I saw them, the 30 of them or so, I saw they were tearing up as well, and for me seeing that, seeing them wear green and gold jerseys.

“They’re all Kiwis, we came from Auckland, and when I’m talking about sacrifices, I mean the double-jobbing my parents did to help us...

“They’d eat bread, nothing more for their dinner, and they only had enough money to get me a chicken breast, so they did that to make sure I wasn’t hungry, and that I could get the proper nutrients I needed, and stuff like that.

“God has blessed me big time. It has been a crazy journey but it has definitely made me the man I am today.”

Paenga-Amosa has to now show he can do it all over again as Australia look to close out the series this Saturday in Melbourne and he will look to improve his lineout throwing in particular after a shaky start at the weekend.

“I don’t think I will have as many nerves as I did last week, I am just focusing on my job, on my defence, carries, set-piece, all that sort of stuff. I just know that this week I don’t have to go and do everyone else’s job.

“I watched my game, and there were a lot of extra things I was trying to do because I was so energetic, it was my first cap and I was running around like a headless chicken but I think this week I will just focus on my job.”

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