Sydenham junior David Vaealiki played seven Tests for New Zealand in the early-2000s after debuting for Parramatta Eels as a teenager.
A Junior Kiwi in 1998, the Linwood High student set a record as Canterbury’s youngest provincial rep that year when he played against West Coast at the tender age of 17 years and 199 days.
The strapping fullback/centre slipped through Auckland Warriors’ net and signed with Parramatta, making six NRL appearances in 1999 – including the Eels’ preliminary final loss to Melbourne Storm – as an 18-year-old. At the end of the season he captained the Junior Kiwis in a hard-fought 2-0 series loss to a Junior Kangaroos side boasting eight future Australian internationals.
Injury delayed Vaealiki’s progress early in 2000 but he cemented an Eels centre spot during the second half of the season, featuring in another preliminary final before winning in a place in the Kiwis’ World Cup squad. Still 11 days shy of his 20th birthday, Vaealiki scored two tries on debut in an 84-10 rout of Cook Islands – his only appearance at the tournament.
Vaealiki came off the bench in a 36-0 defeat of France and started at centre in a 28-10 loss to Australia midway through 2001. He missed just one game for the runaway minor premiers, but the Eels crashed to a shock NRL Grand Final defeat to Newcastle.
The tall, long-striding tyro turned out for the Kiwis in three Tests at fullback in late-2002: the gallant 32-24 loss to the Kangaroos in Wellington, the third-Test defeat to Great Britain in Wigan and the one-off victory over France in Perpignan, where he scored a try.
Vaealiki made his last appearance for New Zealand at fullback in a dismal 48-6 mid-season loss to Australia in Sydney in 2003. After 92 NRL games and 32 tries for the Eels, he departed at the end of a disappointing 2004 campaign to join English heavyweights Wigan.
Following a three-season stint with the Warriors, Vaealiki returned to the NRL with Manly in 2008 but played only two top-grade games for the eventual premiers, leaving midyear to take up a two-year deal with Top 14 French rugby union club SC Albi.
NEW ZEALAND (2000-03)
7 Tests – 3 tries (12 points)
-2000 Kiwis World Cup squad
-2002 Kiwis tour of Britain and France