Feleti Kaitu'u arrived in Perth six years ago and quickly made his Force debut against Fiji on May 4, 2018. Soon developing into one of Australia's premier hookers, Kaitu'u admits the 50 caps clocked up quicker than anticipated, unaware on Sunday he was running out for his milestone match.
"Yeah, it was surprising. It was not on my mind as I got injured a couple of weeks ago and wasn't meant to play on the weekend. However, Folau went down in the warm-up, so I got a late call-up. I only realised after the game that it was my 50th. So it caught me by surprise, but I feel very proud to reach this milestone," Kaitu'u admits.
"My road to 50 is quite unique. I feel privileged to have seen the club from where it was to where it is today. I'm really excited about what the future holds for this club. To play 50 games in the one Jersey with the black swan on my chest, will always hold a special place in my heart."
"I said to the boys when they handed me my cap that getting just one at one stage was very unlikely, almost impossible. Now to be able to play 50, and represent my country in that process is all due to the opportunity handed back all those years ago from the Force."
After an outstanding 2021 Super Rugby campaign, the St Joseph's Nudgee College alumni made his Wallabies debut in September 2021 in the memorable win over the Springboks on the Gold Coast. However, when asked about his most memorable milestone, he promptly responded with his Force debut, the first game of Rapid Rugby in front of the Sea of Blue at HBF Park.
"Yeah, obviously, your debut you never forget. I was a pretty nervous young hooker at that time and was on the bench for Heath Tessmann. Tess [Heath Tessmann] went down with a hamstring injury early in the first half, the coaches seemed to look around, I was called up and we ended up winning that game. That games was the first one back after the horrible saga the year before. It was a pretty special night."
Rubbing shoulders with some of Rugby's biggest names over his five-year tenure, Kaitu'u vows he has learnt a great deal from his teammates.
"Playing with the likes of Ian Prior, Richard Kahui, Jeremy Thrush and Rob Kearney, watching how they operated day to day, the standards that they held themselves to, but then also the standards that they held of others. I learnt that it was up to you to get on their level or get left behind."
Kaitu'u is one of five Force players to still be included in the side who made their debut during Global Rapid Rugby.
With three-test caps to his name Kaitu'u admits the desire to represent his country again is alive and is optimistic under the guidance of Force head coach Simon Cron.