There is no such thing as an overnight success in professional rugby, yet if he is named in the Wallabies matchday squad to face Ireland on Saturday, uncapped back row Caleb Timu may come pretty close.
From double-jobbing as an Uber driver two years ago to supplement his rugby earnings as a fringe player with the Queensland Reds Super Rugby franchise, the 24-year-old, 6’ 3” (1.9m), 17-stone (108kg) Timu has this season forced his way into the Test reckoning. Now, he is preparing for a potential debut on his home ground this weekend at Suncorp Stadium.
“I hope so,” Timu said about this Saturday being his opportunity. “I am not going to call it too early. I will put my hand up, whether it is the bench or starting.”
That he is in the frame at all, having taken an unorthodox path into professional rugby union, is remarkable in itself.
Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Timu started out playing Union and was good enough to make the Australian Schoolboys squad in 2011, only to switch codes to League two years later, when he signed for the Brisbane Broncos as an U20.
Dovetailing the 13-man code with work as a Mormon missionary in New Zealand and Samoa, Timu got an early release from his contract to join the Reds in April 2016, but as a young married man with a pregnant wife, his contract was not enough to support his fledgling family life.
“I’d just got married, was 21, my wife was pregnant, expecting our first child, and I did my ACL just after moving to the Reds and, so, Ubering came about, because I’d tried to do some work on the side as a teacher aid, but because of the scheduling, I couldn’t really commit to it. So I had to think of something that could be flexible, which was why I signed up as an Uber driver, because there were bills to pay and things to do around the house.
“I was still making a bit more from rugby, but this was helping fill some of the gaps. It taught me to work hard and sacrifice. The work tended to be in the evening and early mornings, at weekends, that’s when people need Ubers, so that’s when I worked.
“Even in pre-season, I did some work then, too. I’d train during the day and then work at night.”
The work ethic was nothing new to Timu, even if fatherhood was.
“I knew I had to man up. My dad was a good example to me, he worked at a whole lot of jobs, he dropped out of school, he worked in factories, so I guess having a good role model like that taught you that a work ethic was important and, so, I knew from an early age that fathers aren’t just preoccupied from feeding your own mouth, but have to provide for others. It was a good motivator and, in terms of footy, I really want to push myself and prove myself so that I can provide for my family.
“I’m a proud father. Kalisi (nearly two) and Etuate, who is four months. Being in camp, my wife has been left to do the nights, so I am going home tonight to help out. I’ll be away for a few weeks after this. It is a bit of a challenge. This is a massive honour, though, to be called into the national squad. It’s something I have always wanted to do, now the goal has become a reality.
“If I was to play, it would be a dream come true for me and my family and for all the people who have made sacrifices for me to get to where I am today.”
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