Hard-Hitting Lam Takes a Shot at NRC with Canberra Vikings

Seilala Lam in action for Canberra Vikings on Thursday night - Photo: AJF Photography

Seilala Lam in action for Canberra Vikings on Thursday night – Photo: AJF Photography

Brendan-Bradford-webby Brendan Bradford –

Everyone in the Shute Shield knows. There’d be few at the Waratahs and another couple at the Brumbies who are aware too. But word is only just starting to leak through the NRC ranks. It’s not a difficult message, but true comprehension of it can only be gained through experience.

Don’t run at Seilala Lam. Pretty simple.

A few of his nicknames – ‘The Violence’ or ‘Shoulder of Death’ – should give it away. Or, if that’s not intimidating enough, check him out taking down Rams lock Jared Barry at Parramatta Stadium on Thursday night. Barry, the six-foot plus running machine and Rugby News Team of the Year second-rower, found himself on the wrong side of a couple of monstrous tackles as Lam’s Canberra Vikings ran out 37-18 winners over the Rams in the second round of NRC matches.

“Didn’t learn the first few times,” Barry said on Twitter afterwards.

He’s not the only one to feel the full force of Lam’s lethal shoulders. Back in March while playing off the bench for the Waratahs’ Gen Blue side against Argentina Pampas XV in the Pacific Rugby Cup, the 25-year-old wrecking ball levelled an unwitting Argentine forward who’d foolishly snapped up a loose ball and took off around the corner. The loud smack was heard around the ground and a chorus of groans emanated from the sidelines as Lam hit the next breakdown with similar ferocity.

BANG! Lam relieves Perth Spirit prop Alec Hepburn of possession - Photo: AJF Photography

BANG! Lam relieves Perth Spirit prop Alec Hepburn of possession – Photo: AJF Photography

“I had to do something in the ten minutes I was on the field,” he joked afterwards.

Lam was in a state of flux back then, and his footy was suffering because of it.

In the midst of switching from Randwick to arch-rivals Eastern Suburbs, he was also navigating his way around a completely new position. A couple of years of injuries had halted the former Australian U-20 representative’s once-sure rise up the backrow ranks in Sydney and Tahs coach Michael Cheika suggested a switch to hooker.

“I’m still trying to decide which position I’m suited to,” Lam said at the time.

“I’ve been training with the Waratahs over summer and the last little while I’ve been at hooker but he (Cheika) always just puts me in at seven. There are a lot of good sevens at the moment and I’d thought I’d give hooker a go, but I don’t mind. I just want to get out there.”

He admits to inconsistent form at the start of the Shute Shield season, but he turned out enough solid performances that the Brumbies came calling when Stephen Moore and Siliva Siliva went down with midseason injuries.

“I was picked up as the 24th man and I’ve been training down in Canberra since the end of June,” Lam said on Thursday.

“I was travelling with the team when everyone fell over and I was in the match-day squad and everything but never played.”

Born in Hamilton, New Zealand and raised in Wellington and Canberra, the bullocking runner is a product of the famous Lam family of hard-hitting, harder to stop rugby players. Older brother, Jack, played for the Hurricanes and was recently signed by Bristol while cousin, Pat, is a former All Black and Samoan international who coached the Blues and is now in charge of Connacht in Ireland.

Though Lala carved out a formidable reputation in Sydney’s Shute Shield, there was something – an X-factor – that seemed to be missing. In the past he might have made excuses, but not now.

“The last couple of years I’ve missed a couple of opportunities because of lack of training and my attitude,” he said bluntly.

On lineout duties against the Rams - Photo: AJF Photography

On lineout duties against the Rams
Photo: AJF Photography

“Now I’m glad all those things, the injuries, came up because otherwise I wouldn’t know what to do now. I’d rather learn from them and make mistakes now than in the future. I’m just carrying myself differently on the field now. Being more respectful to my coach and my teammates and being unselfish.

“Just being there for them, and I guess before I was more individual and just wanted to get a contract straight away, but here I am now, just taking it one step at a time and not trying to take shortcuts. I learnt that the hard way.”

The diminutive forward says moving back to Canberra was crucial in his turnaround. He’s also reconnected with his junior club, Queanbeyan Whites, where, as a teenager, he was pitted against some much bigger opposition.

“We only had one car so when I was 14, dad said ‘you’re going to play with Jack,’” he remembers.

“He’s two years older than me, but my old man told me not to be scared of anyone, and I’m more scared of him than anyone else, but it was all good. Now I’m back to where it all started and being back home has put me on my feet a bit. Now that I’m just training at hooker, I have a bit more confidence and I know where I stand as well.”

Lam started on the bench in the Vikings’ opening round loss to Perth Spirit but wore the number two jersey with distinction on Thursday night against the Rams. An early yellow card for not-releasing the ball carrier – “not a high shot” he was quick to point out – took nothing away from a typically physical and imposing performance. His run-on NRC debut was made more special as it was the first time he’d played alongside younger cousin and loosehead prop Les Makin. Little cuz scored a try too.

Like other players at Super Rugby-based NRC franchises, he’s short on match-fitness – especially considering his last game of 15s was for Easts against West Harbour in June. One of the highlights of that match was – you guessed it – another crunching tackle on an unsuspecting opponent. The recipient this time, Tom Games, will remember the hit. Actually, he probably doesn’t. He’ll know better for next time though. Don’t run at Lala Lam.

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