EMERGING footballer Ben Nakubuwai is about to start on a dream journey after being signed by NRL club Melbourne Storm.
Nakubuwai, 17, has been on the Storm's "must have" list for a couple of years and will be a member of the club's SG Ball Cup under 18s squad.
Fresh from the Group 20 under 18s premiership with the Bidgee Hurricanes, Nakubuwai will move to Melbourne once he completes his HSC exams.
The link to the storm started some time ago through Nakubuwai's involvement with an under-age representative team.
"I played in the under 15s team for Group 20 and about two years ago I got invited to a camp in Melbourne," Nakubuwai said.
"At the camp we did training drills and fitness. I gave my best at everything.
"They kept inviting me down to camps and I kept getting invited back. They offered it at the start of this year."
Having put in plenty of effort over successive years, Nakubuwai was happy more than surprised to be offered a contract.
"I did put in a lot of hard work during the off season," he said. "I'm happy all the hard work I put in is paying off."
Nakubuwai grew up playing football, starting with rugby union when he was seven and league when he was 14.
He is a true son of a gun his father Pio represented Fiji in league and union, as well as playing for Yanco-Wamoon and, until his retirement this year, for the Phantoms. Ben's brothers, Pio Junior and Emani, play under 16s for the Hurricanes, with Pio Jnr also playing union and being selected in the ACT Brumbies under 15s team.
While his preferred position is prop or second row, Nakubuwai played much of the 2013 season at fullback for the Hurricanes under coach Michael Thomas, including on grand final day.
"I thought it was a joke at first," Nakubuwai said.
"When he was putting me there week by week, I thought he can't be serious.
"But the team has got a lot of forwards, so I would be keeping someone out of the team. I took one for the team you could say."
Pre-season start at the end of the year and Nakubuwai is ready to step up to the challenge.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to get a chance to fulfil a dream to become a professional," he said.
"It is a chance to test myself against the best in Australia. I want to make the most of the opportunity I've been given.
"It's surprising what people outside (the club) say. When you're in the club it is all about hard work and modesty.
"They treat everyone as equals, whether your Billy Slater or a rookie. They really value hard work."
While he is contracted for the SG Ball Cup, strong performances by Nakubuwai could see him transition to the Melbourne under 20s.
In addition to football, Nakubuwai will also be studying at university while in Melbourne.