Jets unveil rising Fiji star
A giant Fijian international likened to a young Mal Meninga is set to be unleashed on the Intrust Super Cup by the Ipswich Jets.
Pio Seci was the only player plucked from the Fijian domestic competition to make the Bati's World Cup squad and the versatile 24-year-old is now in Australia training with the Jets.
Seci, who played with the Nabua Broncos in Fiji last season, first came to Ipswich's attention in 2016 in Hawaii when he starred in an international against Canada.
Ipswich officials, who were in Hawaii for the Ohana Cup at the time, have been working on getting Seci a visa ever since and have now got their man.
Ipswich Jets chairman Steve Johnson said there was a real sense of anticipation about "the big Mal Meninga style of centre with plenty of skill".
"Pio is a similar size to Mal at the same age, a six-foot-five [195cm] and 105-kilo, musclebound centre ... so he is a very big boy," Johnson told NRL.com.
"Like Mal he has got genuine pace and one of the biggest centres you will ever see. Whether he stays a centre remains to be seen with the way Ben and Shane Walker coach, but at the moment he will be starting in the centres.
"He has pace and is the complete package and the challenge for him will be playing at Intrust Super Cup level each week. He has the ability. He just needs to find the consistency.
"Pio was rated the best player in domestic Fiji, which was a massive wrap."
Seci impressed Bati coach Mick Potter when he lined up in the Battle of the Bati last year, a clash between Fijian locals and Fijian overseas players who had played less than eight NRL or Super League that season.
He was initially selected in the World Cup squad by Potter to cover injuries in the back-row.
"Talent is not Pio's worry and he could play a couple of different positions if he put his mind to it, anything from front row to five-eighth, and he's athletic enough to play centre," Potter told NRL.com.
"He has a good skillset and fundamentally he has a great base to work off and those two guys [the Walker brothers] would be good to learn off.
"Pio has the potential to play NRL and just needs to change a couple of things with his diet. You need to be so bloody-minded to play in the NRL, but I have seen many young men change their diets to achieve what they want to achieve."
Potter said Seci was "one of the most jovial men I have been associated with".
"I love his off-field banter. Pio is a fantastic young man with a great sense of humour and he will be one of the characters of the Intrust Super Cup," he said.
Seci has played for the Northern Pride and Easts Tigers in junior and lower grades and was signed to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs where he played under 20s in 2013.
Johnson said there was a remarkable back-story to his acquisition by the Jets, which involved Brendan O'Farrell, the CEO of Intrust Super.
"Pio was Brendan O'Farrell's first role as a talent scout to get a player into his own competition," Johnson grinned.
"Brendan came across to the Ohana Cup in 2016 and ran water for one of the Hawaiian teams, and then when the Test match was on between Fiji and Canada he was the interchange official.
"After the game he came up to me and said 'you've got to sign this big centre to our competition. He's outstanding'. I said 'one thing about you Brendan, you can judge a football player'.
"Young Pio impressed me on that tour as a fine young man who can certainly play rugby league."