As a relative latecomer to the professional game, centre George Wacokecoke is now just one appearance away from his 50th for Newcastle Falcons.
The 26-year-old could reach that landmark on Saturday when Saracens make the Gallagher Premiership trip to Kingston Park Stadium, with the Fijian-born back admitting the impending milestone came as a shock to him.
“It’s a bit of a surprise, to be honest,” said the versatile three-quarter, who had an involvement with Northampton Saints’ academy during his youth before moving to Bath, going on to join Darlington Mowden Park and Northumbria University before making his top-level breakthrough with the Falcons.
“I’m not someone who pays a huge amount of attention to the stats so it’s kind of crept up on me, but it’s a nice number to reach.
“I try to just live in the moment and not get hung up on ticking off a certain number of games, but yeah, it’s cool, and I’m sure that after the game I’ll look back and think about it a bit more, if I’m selected.”
Playing for England Students in a pathway which has seen him working in the Falcons’ ticket office during his senior academy days, Wacokecoke said: “It feels like it’s gone quickly, even though I had to wait a while to get my foot in the door.
“I’ve had a different route to get here, with getting released from academies, going to play in National One, becoming a student, starting with the Falcons and then progressing my way through.
“It’s not the typical pathway but it’s been quite good, and I definitely appreciate what I have.
“Hopefully if we get the win on Saturday I can have a nice little beer to toast my 50th game for the Falcons, but until that point it’s not really something that’s in my head.
“I’ll never be complacent because there’s always loads of competition for places, and I just go day to day, trying to improve a little bit at a time.”
Confident that his side can halt their win-less streak on Saturday, he added: “We all know we need to be winning games, but I do feel like there’s been a bit of a shift in the last few weeks.
“We’re starting to play more, we look like we’re challenging teams a bit more and we’re gradually getting there. I don’t think we’re far away, and it just takes that one win for things to properly click.
“Away at Harlequins last week, yeah I know everyone will point to the fact we couldn’t score against 13 players when they had guys in the sin bin, but if you take the game as a whole I do think we’re moving in the right direction.
“Sarries this weekend are a big physical side, they have some strong ball-carriers who give them good go-forward and we’ll just have to front up, first and foremost.
“Once we’ve done that then the rest can take care of itself, but it all starts with that physical battle.”
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