AS a two-year-old, just being able to put one foot in front of the other and not fall over is a pretty good start to life.

But Jordan Uelese was aiming a little higher.

Somewhat unbelievably, Uelese was at that age playing organised club rugby for Oriental Rongotai’s under-6 team, with nappies hiding underneath his shorts.

Among his teammates in Wellington, New Zealand, was a five-year-old Ardie Savea, now an All Blacks star and one of the most explosive players in world rugby.

“I started playing when I was two,” a now 20-year-old Uelese told in Newcastle, during his first week in camp with the Wallabies.

“I think I was a bit big boned.

“I used to play under-6s when I was two.

“Apparently I used to pick up the ball, play in my nappies and run the opposite way.

“But mum and dad, obviously growing up and watching all the boys (Uelese’s older brothers), I wanted to play and be just like them so that’s why they enrolled me.

“That’s where my rugby career kicked off.”

A two-year-old Jordan Uelese (top left) with teammate Ardie Savea (bottom row, second from left).
A two-year-old Jordan Uelese (top left) with teammate Ardie Savea (bottom row, second from left).

The fourth youngest of five boys, Uelese grew up idolising his brothers and father, Sekati, who were all back-rowers running around in the local competitions each weekend.

Mum would pack lunches to keep the boys happy and, being in Wellington, Uelese grew up idolising an All Blacks icon, rather than a Wallaby.

“My favourite player growing up was Jerry Collins,” said Uelese, now a hooker for the Rebels.

“He was the pinnacle of toughness and being a back-rower back then I always wanted to emulate the kind of player he was.

“He was ruthless and really just wanted to kill other guys on the other side of the field.

“And also my old man, Sekati, he is my mentor and my coach.

“My dad, I always looked up to him, I idolised him and I used to watch him on the field and he’s obviously the guy who instilled the love of the game into me.

“If it wasn’t for him and my mother I wouldn’t be here today.”

Fellow back-rower Savea was also someone he looked up to.

“Ardie was the talk of the town growing up,” said Uelese, who moved to Melbourne with his family when he was 11.

“He was one of the best flankers in the country when I was growing up in New Zealand.

“My old man used to play with his old man for the same club (Ories) and I guess everyone looked up to Ardie because he made it so big so early in his career.

“I think that gave a bit of hope to everyone that maybe there could be a career for them as well.

“It would be pretty buzzy (to play against Savea).

“He’s a bit older than me, but if the opportunity arises it would be awesome to come up against a great player like him.”

Uelese has played a grand total of 28 minutes of Super Rugby, with three brief stints off the bench for the Rebels this season.

But while the Australian under-20s rake is by far the least experienced in Michael Cheika’s train-on squad ahead of the Rugby Championship, it’s a situation that isn’t foreign for Uelese.

“When I was a six-year-old I was a bit heavy, so I was playing two age-groups older,” Uelese said.

“And even when I was older, when I was in the 11s, you had to be under-60kg to play under-12s, so I had to go and play under-13s.

“I’ve always played up a grade and had to mix it with the big boys, which is good.

“I think that was great growing up playing with older fellas, you sort of get used to it.”