John Nicodemus had never seen an oval ball when he and his family migrated to New Zealand from the Philippines in 2000.
Now he and brothers Josh, 23, and Jericho, 21, have their sights set on an international rugby league debut.
The brothers all play for the Te Atatu Roosters Rugby League Club. At the completion of this season, all three were selected to play in an ethnic nines competition, run by Counties Manukau Rugby League.
After a strong showing, the Nicodemus clan have been picked in an ethnic invitational team to travel to Sydney for the Cabramatta International Nines, on January 28.
The tournament will feature 32 teams from all over the world, with nations such as El Salvador, Malta, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Niue, Chile, and Thailand being represented.
“It’s an awesome concept, just promotes league to minorities and ethnic communities in general and gives us a chance to play some top level footy,” says Josh Nicodemus.
“Nines is a completely different game, it’s not about size, speed and skill is actually more of an asset so it’s ideal for the second-tier nations.”
Among the countries on show will be the brothers’ native Philippines, who will use the tournament as a warm-up to their test match against rugby league powerhouse, Papua New Guinea, the following week.
John Nicodemus, 25, is hoping a good showing at the tournament can put both he and his brothers in the frame for their maiden international call-up.
“It would be a dream come true for us all to run out for our country but we will just see how it goes. The first thing in our minds is the Cabramatta tournament,” he says.
A member of the Sharman Cup winning Te Atatu Roosters side, Nicodemus has had a busy season.
The utility outside-back says that though the additional football is tough on the body, it’s worth it to run out along side his brothers.
“It’s awesome, I mean playing with Josh and Jerry can be a little bit frustrating at times, we tend to knock heads a bit on the field but a lot of things happen just naturally between us,” he says.
“Off the cuff plays particularly come a lot easier so we really enjoy it.”
John, Josh and Jericho have all been named in the Admirals squad, the Philippines national reserves team, to play against a Mediterranean side in the curtain-raiser to the test match.
However if the family chemistry can gel at the nines, all three are hoping to earn selection and stand shoulder to shoulder for the topside in early February.