Four years after he left Armidale to pursue his rugby dreams, Jone Tiko is set to realise them at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The former Armidale Blues front rower is poised to make his Super Rugby debut after being named on the bench for the Fijian Drua for their clash with the Brumbies.
Should he get on the field, he will become the club's first Super Rugby product and the first player in more than 15 years to go on to play Super Rugby after plying their trade in the New England competition. The last was Francis Fainifo back in 2006.
Longtime Blues committee member, and former mentor, Luke Stephen said it is a great achievement and testament to the hard work the 27-year old has put in to "chase his dream".
"This hasn't come overnight, he's been working on it for four years," he said.
Originally joining Easts after deciding "to pursue opportunities in Brisbane", Tiko was a key recruit for Wests ahead of the 2020 season and "had a really good year" for them last year, Stephen said, "in terms of being a consistent first grader".
He was rewarded with selection in the wider Drua squad.
More noted as a hard running No.8 in his early years with the Blues, Tiko started to transition to the front row in 2016, playing there for the Lions at the Country Championships and later the Blues.
Stephen said everyone involved in the local rugby scene is "very happy for him".
Particularly his proud Blues' family, and there is sure to be plenty of loud cheers coming from the front bar at the Imperial Hotel when/if Tiko is introduced into the game.
"The club couldn't be happier for him and we look forward to celebrating (after their trial games against Glen Innes) at the Imperial Hotel," Stephen said.
The game will be the free-to-air game.
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