Rebel with a cause

Antonio Sipa Masina. Picture Rugby Victoria

Peter Howe

Antonio Sipa Masina is one of the lucky ones with his post-year 12 career already mapped out.

The year 12 student at Werribee’s Grange P-12 College is about to embark on every young person’s dream, a professional sporting career having signed a three year contract with Super Rugby side Melbourne Rebels.

Having progressed through the junior ranks, Masina has his eyes on the big time. He has followed his dream for as long he can remember.

“I played volleyball alongside my father, but my real passion is rugby union,” he said.

“I eat, sleep and breathe it.”

Sport runs in the family for Masina with the family supportive of all members’ different sporting achievements.

Masina played rugby league, rugby union and volleyball at junior state level.

“My father, Venu, was an international volleyball player for Samoa and New Zealand,” he said.

“My older sister played rugby in the Super W League with the Melbourne Rebels and my three younger siblings are all into their sports.

“My mother, Malia, is the backbone of our family.”

Masina really started to focus on rugby union in 2017 when he was hand-picked to join the Rebels Academy for 2018.

It would be a big year in the sport for Masina as he toured Europe as part of the Victorian state schools team.

“It was an amazing experience. We travelled and played England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Belgium in the month we were away,” he said.

“I learned so much about being in a travelling team and playing some great teams.”

After the highs of 2018, it was a much tougher 2019 when Masina suffered a significant setback to his sporting dream when he broke his ankle playing for the Brimbank Rugby Club in a game.

An operation to reconstruct his ankle and a two-year battle to return to playing certainly made Masina more resilient.

“I have always had to work hard to improve my skills, after this injury I had to work four times harder,” he said.

“Recovery was critical and I spent many hours in recovery mode. I was never sure I was going to be able to play at the level again.“

With last season shut down due to COVID-19, Masina had more time to get himself right and returned to the field earlier this year for the Rebels Academy under-18 team.

Masina, who plays as the number seven or open side flanker, had been attending the Rebels Academy training three times a week.

Outside of that Masina has become well known around his neighbourhood dragging or flipping tyres, while running laps around the block or using a punching bag in the front yard.

Masina, who is also a senior house captain at this school, was chosen in July to become part of the Rebels’ elite player program.

“I am looking forward to 2022 as I embark on my professional sporting journey,” he said.

“I will spend my first year playing in first or second grade with a Victorian Rugby Union team overseen by the Rebels.

“My immediate aim is to press for an under-20 Australian selection next year.

“From there, to become a Melbourne Rebels core player in their senior squad. My ultimate aim is to represent Australia.“

Masina is the Sunshine Western Region Sports Club September Don Deeble Sports Star Award winner. His award is sponsored by the Yarraville Club Cricket Club, Strathmore Community Bank and the Deer Park Club.

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