A member of the 2012 premiership winning NYC side and having been in good form the the Club's NSW Cup team, Akauola became the 160th player to appear in first grade for Wests Tigers when he lined up against premiers Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.
Originally named 18th man, Akauola came off the interchange bench following the withdrawal of Liam Fulton through injury. Here is his story
MY NRL EXPERIENCE
When I got the call up to just train with the Wests Tigers NRL squad for the week, I was very excited. Just to be told I was 18th man was the best feeling. It was at our final team run last Sunday morning when Mick Potter named the side and said Liam Fulton wouldnt be playing. Mick told the group I would be making my NRL debut and everyone just clapped and congratulated me. I was so overwhelmed. I went blank.
Flying down to Melbourne with the NRL team was just amazing. I couldnt sleep Sunday night. My room-mate was James Tedesco. I dont remember much of the bus ride from our team hotel to the ground. I was too busy looking around the bus seeing the calibre of players I was with.
It was the same feeling when I was changing in the dressing rooms. I couldnt believe I was here. I told myself this isnt real. Going out for the warm up was a surreal feeling. I tried to block out the noise and the crowd. It was a really good feeling.
The game starts and Im on the bench, not knowing when I am going to go on. I run up and down the sidelines at different times with the other interchange players to keep warm and stretching. Just looking at the field was unreal. I was so happy.
Sitting on the sidelines, the speed of the game didnt look real fast but it was a different story when I went on to the field with 20 minutes remaining. I think it was 12-all and I made my first tackle I think on Jesse Bromwich. Even then, I was thinking this is unreal. The adrenalin was pumping.
I wanted to get my first hit up over and done with. I didnt want to look anywhere but their props to run at. So I ran at them. It was good to get smashed and get all the nerves out. I was so happy. I think my team-mates were expecting to me to offload but I was never going too even if it was on.
When full-time came around, to shake three of the best players hands in the world in Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith was just unreal. It was the best feeling. I got to shake hands with one of my best mates in Kenny Bromwich who also made his NRL debut that night. We grew up together in Manurewa so it was a special moment. He was the one who convinced me to switch to rugby league.
In the dressing rooms, we were upset about the loss but I took plenty out of it. The experience was unbelievable. I enjoyed the bus ride more this time.
The boys were fantastic to me during the whole week. Now Ive had a taste of NRL, I want more of it.
The only way I can do that is to keeping working on my game, my weaknesses, and my fitness. I know it can be done.