Most NRL players dream of their debut for years, but few have to wait as long as Makahesi Makatoa did to see it happen.
The New Plymouth product was a promising junior in New Zealand, and in an interview with Taranaki Daily News, detailed his journey from the Western Suburb Tigers to a first grade debut with Parramatta.
He also revealed he is signed with the Eels for 2022.
Makatoa made the move to Sydney at 18, citing a "lack of opportunity" in his native New Zealand to pursue the game.
“I thought I’ll just go and give it a crack" the 28-year-old said.
Makatoa quickly signed for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs' under 20's team, where he played five matches during the 2013 campaign.
“I was just so excited. I was amazed how fast it really happened.” Makatoa said.
Makatoa stayed at the Bulldogs for three seasons, failing to regularly feature in the side.
“A few things didn’t go my way” Makatoa reflected. Trying his luck in Canberra after years in Sydney, Makatoa faced another three years of waiting at the Raiders, where he came close to making a senior debut.
Soon, Makatoa found professional success in England, spending a season at the Featherstone Rovers in 2019 under coach Ryan Carr. The prop played 25 games for the West Yorkshire club, coming achingly close to a title before losing in the grand final.
Following his coach back to Australia, Makatoa played under Carr in Parramatta's New South Wales Cup side in 2020. The Covid cancelled season caused the 28-year-old, who was working full time as a scaffolder at the time, to rethink his future in the game.
One year later, after joining the feeder team's full time squad, Makatoa was making his senior debut for the Eels on a Saturday night against Manly.
“It was unreal,” the 28-year-old said.
“I had a lot of people watching in Taranaki."
Speaking of his family, Makatoa revealed that he called them right after finding out the news of his debut.
“I was so happy,” Makatoa said. “They were so happy because they know how much time I’ve been putting in, all my work throughout the years.”
The Eels lost 56-10 to the Sea Eagles in Round 22, but Makatoa was given four more opportunities to prove himself at senior level in 2021, getting his first win in Round 23 against the Cowboys.
At 28, Makatoa became one of the oldest debutants in the game, just one year younger than the record held by Darren Nicholls.
The Kiwi admits he is "living the dream" at the Eels after a decade of waiting for a senior call up.