Don’t be surprised if fans favourite Kevin Naiqama breaks down in tears if St Helens win Saturday’s Challenge Cup final.
The Fiji international is famously emotional but makes no excuses when the floodgates open. The muscle-bound centre said: “I do get overwhelmed with emotion and I’m not afraid to show it.”
His tears a few months ago, however, came from a much darker place as he and wife Lily went through personal trauma. He said: “Lily got Covid a week before she was due to give birth last December and it took a big hit to her health. We had planned for a home birth but, with her having Covid, that option got taken out of our hands.”
Their plans then took an even worse turn when Naiqama drove Lily to the hospital as her contractions got worse. He said: “I was told I wasn’t allowed into the hospital. It was a big shock being told I had to go home. It was very traumatic for both of us. Lily had to give birth on her own and I didn’t even know my baby had been born until an hour after it happened.”
Baby Maia Grace and Lily were kept in hospital for a further two days because both of them needed medical treatment, meaning Naiqama’s isolation from his family continued. They have since discovered he should have legally been allowed in for the birth, which has added to their stress.
He said: “We are very angry and still processing it. I don’t know if we’ll take it further because it will be a long process and nothing now will give me that chance to watch my baby being born.”
Throughout the trauma, Naiqama and Lily leaned heavily on their faith to support them. The Saints centre is deeply religious and is covered in tattoos in honour of his beliefs, including an amazing artwork covering his entire back.
At the top is Jesus being crucified, in the middle is Jerusalem city and at the bottom is Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting. Naiqama said: “Our faith definitely helped both of us, particularly my wife when she was by herself giving birth.
“The tattoos are a story. They’re not only a conversation starter but also me being unapologetic about my faith. The crucifixion is the pinnacle of our faith as Christians and is why we live the life we live.”
Naiqama is out on contract at the end of this year and his future is still not decided. But he is determined to add a Challenge Cup final winners’ medal to the two Grand Final rings he won in 2019 and 2020.
He said: “Covid has been a daunting experience but we have had an amazing time in England and I’ve loved my time at Saints. Winning the Grand Final two years in a row created some amazing memories and I could not have dreamed of that when I signed.
“But now I want to be part of a Challenge Cup win. I know all about the club’s proud history with the Cup so we definitely want to win it this year.”
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