4 February 1989|
Sutherland, New South Wales, Australia
|Height||179 cm (5 ft 10 in)|
|Weight||93 kg (14 st 9 lb)|
|Position||Centre, Wing, Fullback|
As of 14 April 2018
Kevin Naiqama (born 4 February 1989) is a Fijian international rugby league footballer who plays for the Wests Tigers in the National Rugby League. He previously played for the Newcastle Knights and Penrith Panthers. He plays as a fullback, wing and centre. On the 22 May 2018 Naiqama signed a three year contract with St.Helens RLFC.
He was born in Sutherland, New South Wales, Australia. Naiqama is of Fijian descent and played his junior football for the Arncliffe Scots, before being signed by the St. George Illawarra Dragons.
After playing with the St. George Illawarra Dragons, Naiqama joined the Newcastle Knights alongside his brother Wes in 2008. He played for the Knights' NYC team in 2008 and 2009, scoring 21 tries in 33 games.
Moving to the Knights' New South Wales Cup team Central Coast Centurions, Naiqama played for the New South Wales Residents against the Queensland Residents at ANZ Stadium as a curtain raiser to Game three of the State of Origin series. In Round 26, Naiqama made his NRL debut for the Knights against the Melbourne Storm on the wing in the 34-4 loss at AAMI Park. At the end of 2010, Naiqama was named on the wing in the New South Wales Cup Team of the Year.
On 3 August, Naiqama re-signed with the Knights on a 1-year contract. In Round 17 against the Parramatta Eels at Parramatta Stadium, he scored his first NRL try in the Knights' 20-12 win. He finished the season with 8 matches and 7 tries.
On 21 June, Naiqama signed a 2-year contract with the Penrith Panthers starting in 2014, to join his older brother Wes. Knights coach Wayne Bennett told Naiqama to move clubs and further his career as he was behind representative players Darius Boyd, James McManus and Akuila Uate at the Knights. He finished the 2013 season having played in 6 matches and scoring 2 tries. At the end of the season, he played for Fiji at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, playing in 5 matches and scoring 1 try.
In February, Naiqama played for the Panthers at the inaugural Auckland Nines. In Round 2 against the Melbourne Storm, he made his Panthers debut, scoring a double in the 18-17 loss. On 3 May, he played for Fiji in the 2014 Pacific Rugby League International, scoring a try in the 32-16 loss. He finished off the NRL season with 8 matches and 7 tries. On 10 October 2014, Naiqama signed a 1-year contract with the Wests Tigers starting in 2015.
Naiqama made his first appearance for the Wests Tigers in the Auckland Nines. After what the Sydney Morning Herald called an "impressive showing", he said, "I'm the fittest and fastest I have felt in a couple of years, having done my first full pre-season in two years." With regular winger David Nofoaluma recovering from injury, Naiqama was named in the starting side for the opening games of the season. In round 1 against the Gold Coast Titans, Naiqama made his debut for the Wests Tigers in the 19-18 loss at Robina Stadium. In Round 2 against the St George Illawarra Dragons, Naiqama scored his first try for the Tigers in the 22-4 win at Campbelltown Stadium. On 15 April 2015, Naiqama signed a two-year extension with the club.
In round 8 against the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, Naiqama did one of the best try assists of the year, when he miraculously flicked a ball, that looked go over the dead ball line, back to James Tedesco. When asked about his try assist being similar to Greg Inglis's in the 2008 ANZAC Test, Naiqama said "I think his was more acrobatic than mine. But it was just real lucky to pull it off and get the try in the end". On 2 May, Naiqama played at fullback for Fiji against Papua New Guinea in the 2015 Melanesian Cup. From Round 21 onwards, when David Nofoaluma returned from injury, Naiqama was shifted from the wing to centre. Naiqama finished his first year with the Wests Tigers with 9 tries from 24 matches.
Naiqama was named in the Tigers Auckland Nines squad. Remaining at right centre in 2016, Naiqama scored his first treble in the Round 3 match against the Titans in the 30-18 loss at Robina Stadium. By mid-season, he was named as one of the most improved players of the year, and it was said he had, "become a genuinely dangerous player down the Tigers' right side, appearing in every game this season. His success is the result of nothing but hard work and persistence." Naiqama finished the season with 11 tries from 23 matches. On 8 October, Naiqama represented Fiji in a test against Samoa in Apia, captaining the team to a 20–18 victory.
In February, Naiqama played in the Auckland Nines. On 6 May, Naiqama again played as captain and fullback for Fiji against Tonga in the 2017 Pacific Cup. He set up a try for Ben Nakubuwai just before half time in the thrilling match but they unfortunately lost 26-24 in the dying minutes. Naiqama made 23 appearances for Wests Tigers, playing centre and wing, and covering fullback when James Tedesco was injured. At season's end, he signed an extension to stay at the club for another year. Naiqama noted he was "stoked" to be staying, and coach Ivan Cleary said, "Kevin has shown great versatility for the team this year covering a number of positions and has handled himself exceptionally well."
Playing in his second World Cup, but his first as captain of Fiji, Naiqama gained attention when he was seen crying during his team's national anthem before the first game. He scored two tries in that match against the USA, and another in the match against Italy for three tries from five games. Coach Mick Potter said of his captaincy, "The position he plays is good for him to be captain. He can boss a few people around but he also shows composure under pressure. I think that's really important. He speaks well, he speaks rugby league. He doesn't talk rubbish and he gets to the point very quickly."
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