(Rugby Pass) Former All Black Malakai Fekitoa has revealed the motive behind his lucrative move to Europe.
The 26-year-old has close to 30 nieces and nephews around the world, all of whom he can now support through rugby.
Fekitoa played 24 tests for the All Blacks before heading to France with Toulon in 2017, and is set to join former Highlanders running mate Lima Sopoaga at Premiership club Wasps next season.
“I left New Zealand to support my family,” Fekitoa – one of 13 siblings born in Tonga – told Mail on Sunday.
“I don’t just support my mum. I support my younger brothers and sisters, my nieces, my nephews.
“I’ve got close to 30 nieces and nephews around the world. Being able to support them is the best feeling ever.”
Fekitoa spoke of the influence his family had on his decision to pursue rugby seriously. He lost his father and a pair of his siblings by 14, which spurred him to find a way to provide.
“Everything crashed — Dad was a carpenter and he was the only person who provided for us,” he said.
“Mum struggled for a while and that’s when I realised no one was going to help us. That’s when I put evrything on rugby.”
Fekitoa came to New Zealand on a scholarship aged 16 where he played for Auckland’s Wesley College. Before his shift to New Zealand he recalls sharing a hut with brothers and cousins, and living off the land through hunting and fishing.
“People talk about the struggles but life was great,” he said.
“We didn’t have much but we didn’t need much. There were no TVs, no phones, no video games and that was the best part of it. We had the beach and the outdoors.”
Fekitoa also opened up about his decision to leave New Zealand while still young. The centre fell out of favour with selectors and decided a change of scenery was the right decision.
“Watching the All Blacks is always hard because I know what I can do,” he said. “It’s difficult but, at the same time, I feel proud watching the guys.
“I didn’t just decide to leave. I thought about it for months and months and I believe I made the right decision. Whatever decision you make, you’ve got to back it 100 per cent and go with it.
“A lot more people are moving over now but in New Zealand there is always someone coming through who can fill in.
“The game is changing. It’s a business. You don’t play forever and people are starting to get that now.”
Fekitoa’s Toulon have struggled recently, failing to get out of their Champions Cup pool for the first time in team history and currently sitting a lacklustre 11th on the Top 14 league table with five wins and nine losses.