World Cup star bestowed honour upon return to Samoa

Upon returning from his spectacular world cup campaign, Sydney Roosters youngster Joseph Suaalii was bestowed an honoured title by the members of his Satitoa village community back in Samoa.

The 19-year-old was granted the title of “matai", meaning chief. His obtaining of the title also means he now goes by a “chief name”, and Suaalii's is “Anavaotaua Iosefa Aukuso Suaalii”, and the Samoan fullback discussed why his is a bit different from usual.

“Usually in Samoa, they'll call you by one of your village names, but I'd prefer to represent both my grandparents' people because of the honours they've given me,” Suaalii told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“So I've combined the two and every time I go back to Samoa, they'll greet me by my chief name.”

Making his honour even more impressive is that Satitoa village elders told him he was not granted it purely for his exploits on the field but also for his generally great character, making him a perfect role model for young men.

Proving this is the fact although he became matai after his strong World Cup performances, he was supposed to get it before even making an appearance for Samoa.

“I was meant to get this matai title before playing for Samoa, I think just because they see me as someone younger people can look up to, that's my role back home.” Suaalii continued.

“They haven't had someone playing NRL and they're very proud, it's about representing my family and my village and giving back to that community.

“I don't look at it as a responsibility, it's more a way of living my life. If I'm leaving a good legacy behind for the next person to come along, that next Samoan kid to come through, that's special for me.”

Penrith-born Suaalii regularly visited Samoa while growing up, but his experience is now drastically different, as it was for everyone else in the Samoan team, who were given a hero's welcome upon return from the World Cup.