Ragsy Wavik has set his sights on a World Cup berth next year, determined to crack the Papua New Guinea side to honour his family’s heritage.
The recently graduated Kirwan High school captain has begun his first pre-season with the Cowboys, eager to ensure the experience is not short-lived and launches him onto the international stage.
Wavik has made a name for himself in the junior ranks as an enigmatic fullback, inspiring the Blackhawks to the Mal Meninga Cup final and the Bears deep into the Aaron Payne Cup.
But with those days now behind him, he has far loftier goals in mind, as he seeks to emulate the feats of Maroons winger Xavier Coates, who thrust himself into the spotlight via his own Kumuls debut.
Wavik admits when he first moved to Australia he struggled to adapt to the cultural shift. But now he said he is embracing his upbringing, proud of his background and buoyed by the prospect of flying his nation’s flag.
“I lost a bit of connection with my country, but mum helps me a lot at home. She speaks the language and teaches me a lot about my culture,” Wavik said.
“When I moved over I couldn’t speak English … a lot of kids made fun of me because to them it was gibberish. (But) my mum has been driving culture all through my childhood, there’s artefacts all through the house so she’s made sure we stay connected to our culture.
“We had a performance for my formal actually, I just really wanted to showcase my culture in front of my school and let them know I’m proud to be where I’m from.
“I really want to represent the Kumuls if I can, it’s one of my goals to represent my motherland and I really am striving towards that. It would mean the world to me and my family, moving away for a better opportunity here in Australia and giving back to PNG is one of my main goals.”
Wavik has already felt his game reach a new level since the North Queensland pre-season began. A 10-second conversation taught him that much.
Standing alongside Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston, the teenage whiz was bestowed some advice from the Immortal in waiting which he has applied rapidly on the training paddock.
That is what Wavik was taken so aback by. All it took was 10 seconds for the premiership-winning champion to evolve his own game.
“He was giving me tips on fullback and sweeping out the back. I didn’t even think he would have information to tell me and as soon as he told me a few things I did it straight away and applied it and it changed my game,” Wavik said.
“It’s definitely surreal, I have to pinch myself. It’s cliche but I have to every now and then.
“It’s different from watching the boys play on TV, it’s a bit daunting. I’m living in the moment, trying to soak up as much information as I can, but it’s crazy going from watching on TV to training with them.”
With now just his football career to focus on, Wavik is relishing the chance to hone in on transforming himself as an athlete.
Throughout his high school days he was constantly moving from one thing to the next, juggling his studies and school demands with his rugby league pursuits.
Now that his vision has narrowed, he said he was out to prove to the Cowboys he was a man to invest in for the long term.
“Having just footy to focus on, graduating has lifted a lot of pressure off me,” Wavik said.
“I was one of the school captains so I had other commitments there, but now it’s all gone just focusing on footy opens up my mindset.
“It clears my mind and helps me focus on the pre-season. I have a 10-week block here, I’m on a train and trial here, so I really just want to reap all the rewards and better my game as much as possible.”
This article appeared in the the Townsville Bulletin on Monday, November 29 - Read here